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Copyright 1988 

Dietlinde Katritzky 


For this, my late second opportunity to enter 
academia, I am indebted to the American university 
system, and in particular to the College of Liberal 
Arts and Sciences at the University of Florida; to 
its Dean Dr. Charles F. Sidman, and to the many 
professors, colleagues and friends there, who have 
helped and encouraged me over the past seven years. 

My special thanks go to the Department of 
Germanic and Slavic Languages and Literatures where I 
started my research on Lichtenberg and the 
Nachtwachen in 1983 under the guidance of Dr. 
Christian J. Gellinek, where Dr. Hal Rennert always 
provided helpful advice, and where the new chairman, 
Dr. Alexander Stephan, gave much-appreciated counsel 
and backing. 

In 1984 I was fortunate enough to be accepted, 
together with my research interests, by the 
Department of English. I wish to express my deep 
gratitude to its Chairman Dr. Melvyn New, and to Dr. 
Richard E. Brantley, Dr. Alistair M. Duckworth, and 
Dr. Brian R. McCrea, not only for agreeing to serve 
on my committee, but also for providing me with new 


and valuable perspectives on my work. The interest 
these specialists in English eighteenth-century 
literature took in G. Ch. Lichtenberg was a great 
encouragement to my belief in the close affinity 
between Lichtenberg, the Nachtwachen and English 
satire. During my long searches for relevant links 
my chairman, Dr. Brian R. McCrea, gave unstintingly 
of his time and expertise: he patiently read numerous 
drafts, and always provided penetrating and 
constructive comments. 

I also thank Dr. Sidney R. Homan, Jr. , for his 
helpful reading of my chapter on Shakespeare, and 
Donald Ball for drawing my attention to M. Bakhtin 
and his theory of the menippea. 

Grateful acknowledgement is due to the 
Lichtenberg-Gesellschaft , its Chairman Dr. Wolfgang 
Promies and, among other members, Dr. Peter Brix, Dr. 
Fritz Ebner, Dr. Hans Ludwig Gumbert, Ulrich Joost, 
Drs. Georg Christoph and Astrid Lichtenberg, to Otto 
Weber and Werner Wegmann. While not all are yet 
convinced by my hypothesis, everybody was most 
helpful and supportive. 

I am also indebted for valuable help in locating 
documents and references to Mr. N. H. Robinson, 
Librarian to the Royal Society of London, to Mr. 


Helmut Drubba, Hannover, and to Dr. Horst Fleig, 

Dr. James A. Deyrup, who initiated me into the 
mysteries of word processing, and who repeatedly 
rescued me with remarkable patience and good humor 
from seemingly desperate situations, deserves special 
commendation . 

Last, not least, I thank my husband, Dr. Alan R. 
Katritzky, for advice and active support with 
research problems, and for putting up cheerfully — 
most of the time — with life with a graduate student. 














IV. ROBERT BURTON (1577-1640) 



V. JONATHAN SWIFT (1667-1745) 


VI. ALEXANDER POPE (1688-1744) 













Abstract of Dissertation Presented to the Graduate 
School of the University of Florida in Partial 
Fulfillment of the Requirements for the 
Degree of Doctor of Philosophy 



A. J. Dietlinde Katritzky 
August 1988 

Chairman: Brian R. McCrea 
Major Department: English 

In 1804 the Nachtvachen. Von Bonaventura was 
published anonymously in Germany. Hardly noticed at 
first, the slender volume has attracted increasing 
acclaim and critical attention. Uneasily assigned to 
the romantic period, it was attributed to a large 
number of possible, and often mutually incompatible 
authors alive and active in 1804. 

Striking parallels exist, however, between 
Bonaventura and G. Ch. Lichtenberg' s variously and 
extensively documented thought processes. If 
attributed to Lichtenberg (1742-99) , and analysed 
from the viewpoint of his literary values and habits, 
the penumbral world of the Nachtwachen is illuminated 
by the enlightened concerns of the eighteenth 
century, and in turn reflects German and English 
intellectual life and development during that period. 


Lichtenberg was an active participator and catalyst 
in this important cultural interchange, and his 
appreciation of contemporary English literature was 
based on a thorough knowledge of the English 
tradition. In this study I attempt to demonstrate 
that Bonaventura shared this background. 

Comparison with the English eighteenth-century 
satirists shows that the Nachtwachen are a menippea, 
a sub-species of the satire, which evolved in 
antiguity from the Socratic tradition. While satire 
is mainly concerned with criticism of present 
conditions, menippean satire refrains from attacking 
singular events or particular situations, and 
guestions basic problems. It deals with life in the 
universal sense, its proper conduct, purpose and 
ultimate eschatological conseguences . The menippea 
can therefore be defined as serio-comic summary of 
mankind's philosophical achievement, and as such was 
particularly congenial to the Age of Enlightenment. 

To reflect the human condition in its entirety, 
the menippea incorporates extremes which range in 
style from formal rhetoric to vulgarisms, and in 
subject matter from the absurd and distorted to the 
sublime, and Lichtenberg, a leading German anglophile 
and the most accomplished satirist of his time, 


perfected his skills by studying English models, 
especially Swift, Pope, Fielding, and Sterne. 

The primary aim of viewing the Nachtwachen 
through his perspective is not to establish the true 
identity of Bonaventura, but to arrive at a valid 
interpretation of his intricate, multi-meaningful, 
and exceedingly condensed text, and its significance 
in the context of the late eighteenth century. 



One of the most controversial books in German 
literature are the Nachtwachen. Von Bonaventura . This 
work appeared anonymously in 1804 in the publishing 
house of Ferdinand Dienemann in Penig, Saxony, a firm 
which specialized in novels, mainly of a trivial and 
ephemeral nature. 1 Established in 1802, the business 
went already bankrupt in 1806 during the upheavals of 
the Napoleonic Wars, when all its stock and documents 
were dispersed and lost. 

Initially the Nightwatches was hardly noticed. 
The only documented contemporary reaction is a letter 
by the novelist Jean Paul (1763-1825) . 2 He suggests 
that Friedrich Wilhelm Schelling (1775-1854) must be 

1 Nachtwachen. Von Bonaventura is the original 
title. As it is ambiguous, many different versions 
are in use. Unless these are quoted, I refer to the 
work as Nightwatches , because the page numbers given 
in this study are taken from the English version in 
Die Nachtwachen des Bonaventura: The Night Watches of 
Bonaventura . Edinburgh Bilingual Library. Transl. and 
intr. Gerald Gillespie (Austin: University of Texas 
Press) , 1971. 

2 Letter by Jean Paul to Paul Thierot, dated 
January 14, 1805. Cited by Wolfgang Paulsen, ed. , 
Bonaventura. Nachtwachen (Stuttgart: Reclam, 1984) , 
pp. 162-63. 

hiding behind the pseudonym Bonaventura, 
becauseSchelling had used it previously to publish a 
poem in the Athenaum . Jean Paul also draws attention 
to Bonaventura ' s indebtedness to his own style and 

The assumed authorship of Schelling remained 
unchallenged until 1903, when the critic Wilhelm 
Dilthey declared that it was not possible for 
Schelling to have written the book. 3 Since then 
scholars have proposed many names without resolving 
the controversy for long. Among the most famous of 
these are E.T.A. Hoffmann, Clemens Brentano, and 
recently Jean Paul himself. Many minor and even 
obscure literary figures were also seriously 
considered. 4 

J Paulsen, p. 165. 

4 The following works refer particularly to 
these authors: Rudolf Haym, Die Romantische Schule. 
Ein Beitraq zur Geschichte des deutschen Geistes 
(Berlin: Weidmannsche Buchhandlung, 1870) . A foot- 
note calls the Nightwatches without doubt one of the 
most ingenious productions of Romanticism (p. 636) . 
Haym connects E. T. A. Hoffmann for the first time 
with Bopnaventura , but finds influences of Jean Paul, 
too, who is now also suggested by Andreas Mielke, 
Zeitqenosse Bonaventura (Diss., Yale University, 
1981) . Erich Frank proposed Brentano as author and 
published the book as: Clemens Brentano: Nachtwachen 
von Bonaventura . Ed. and intr. Erich Frank 
(Heidelberg: Carl Winter, 1912) . 
E. T. A. Hoffmann has again been proposed by 
Rosemarie Hunter-Lougheed , Die Nachtwachen von 
Bonaventura: e. Fruhwerk E.T.A. Hoffmanns ? 
(Heidelberg: Winter, 1985) . This work contains an 
up-dated and extensive survey of the publishing 

First of these was Caroline Schlegel-Schelling, 
the daughter of the Gottingen Professor of Oriental 
Languages, Johann David Michaelis (1717-91) . Hermann 
Michel proposed her in 1904 as co-authoress with her 
husband. 5 In Schelling's persistent silence 
regarding the authorship, Michel saw an overriding 
desire to avoid any further embarrassment after the 
controversies in which marriage with the divorced 
wife of August Wilhelm Schlegel (1767-1845) had 
embroiled him. This judgement was partly based on 
the vehement and controversial opinions to which the 
nightwatchman gives voice, but more so on his 
unsgueamish references to illicit love and body 
functions . 

Among other candidates Friedrich Gottlob Wetzel 
(1779-1819) was promoted because he wrote a poem in 
which he related mind and stomach in ways similar to 

history of the Nightwatches and of most of the 
assumed authors in Chapter I, 1: "Rezeptions- und 
Forschungsgeschichte" , pp. 13-45. Among recent 
summaries: Gerhart Hoffmeister. "Bonaventura : 
Nachtwachen (1804/05)." Romane und Erzahlunqen der 
deutschen Romantik: Neue Interpretationen ( Stuttgart : 
Reclam, 1981), pp. 194-212; Jeffrey L. Sammons, "In 
Search of Bonaventura: The Nachtwachen Riddle 1965- 
1985." The Germanic Review . LXI , 2, 1986, pp. 50-56; 
Ruth Haag. "Noch einmal : Der Verfasser der 
Nachtwachen von Bonaventura" . Euphorion , LXXXI, 3, 
1987, pp. 286-97. 

5 Nachtwachen von Bonaventura . Intr. Hermann 
Michel. Deutsche Literaturdenkmale des 18. und 19. 
Jahrhunderts . Vol. 133 (Berlin: Behrs, 1904; rpt. 
Liechtenstein: Kraus, 1968) . 

Bonaventura . 6 Owing to his general obscurity his 
claims were hard to disprove. They were only 
seriously challenged when Jost Schillemeit proposed 
Ernst August Friedrich Klingemann (1777-1831) , an 
able dramatic producer, but a writer of limited 
talents. 7 The hypothesis raised many doubts, but 
stimulated a wave of renewed interest in the elusive 
Bonaventura. Independently Horst Fleig had also 
arrived at the conclusion that Klingemann and 
Bonaventura were identical . " 

The mere fact that a reasonable and, at least in 
part, convincing case can be made for each of these 
"authors" as well as for many others, testifies to 
the unusual depth and diversity of this extraordinary 
book, and confirms the claim of its protagonist to be 
a representative of mankind (". . .me, who am called 
man," p. 167). This diversity is further revealed by 
the incompatible and divergent ways in which literary 

6 Die Nachtwachen des Bonaventura . Ed. and 
postscr. Franz Schulz (Leipzig: Insel, 1909), 

pp. 154-59. 

7 Jost Schillemeit, Bonaventura. Per Verfasser 
der "Nachtwachen" (Munchen: Beck, 197 3) . 

8 Horst Fleig, Zersprunqene Identitat. 
Klinqemann-Nachtwachen von Bonaventura) (Tubingen: 
Rohmanuskript Promotion, 1974) , and Literarischer 
Vampirismus: Klingemanns 'Nachtwachen von 
Bonaventura 7 . Studien zur deutschen Literatur, 

Vol. 83 (Tubingen: Niemeyer, 1985). 

critics tend to view the slender volume. The 
Niqhtwatches has been interpreted as a trivial novel, 
as the autobiographical relevations of a failed poet, 
and as a dazzling work of genius compared to which 
the Faust of Goethe and Byron pales. 9 

The assignation to trivial literature accords 
with the profile of the Dienemann publishing house, 
but hardly with the nature of the work. It is 
characterized by freguent shifts in style, mood and 
time, digressions which are thematically but not 
structurally integrated, satirical ambiguities and 
difficult philosophical allusions. All these stand 
in opposition to the generic reguirements of the 
trivial novel, which call for clear and consecutive 
narration, a conventional and predictable plot, 
undemanding vocabulary, uncontroversial opinions and 
a satisfying conclusion. 

Most critics have balanced their assessment of 
the book. They acknowledge flashes of brilliance, 
but pronounce the whole uneven, capricious and rather 

y Franz Heiduk, "Bonaventuras ^achtwachen' . 
Erste Bemerkungen zum Ort der Handlung und zur Frage 
nach dem Verfasser." Aurora. Jahrbuch der 
Eichendorf f-Gesellschaf t . XXXXI, (1982), pp. 143-165. 
This highly favorable opinion was given by Ernst von 
Lasaulx in a letter to Joseph Gorres of March 28, 
1831. Often guoted, e.g. Hunter Lougheed, p. 20. 

reckless. 10 From such judgements grew the conviction 
that the book must have been written by a person of 
great promise in his unrestrained youth. 

Further problems are presented by the genre. 
The Nightwatches has been reluctantly classified as a 
novel. 11 Jeffrey Sammons, however, drew attention to 
the work's structure, which is so sophisticated that 
it escapes the notice of the reader whose 
expectations are conditioned by conventional novels. 
Sammons discovered five interconnected narrative 
cycles within the framework of the Sixteen 
Nightwatches in which the nightwatchman Kreuzgang 
relates his thoughts and adventures. 12 These 
unconventional numbers led Rita Terras to interpret 
the structure of the Nightwatches as a homage to 

10 Jean Paul's judgement initiated this 
approach. It was followed by Karl August Ludwig 
Varnhagen von Ense who wrote into his diary on August 
17th, 1843 that he had read the novel by Schelling. 
His criticism was strongly tinged by his antagonism 
to the presumed author. He found the book "immature, 
arbitrary, unorganic, also talented, glittering and 
full of promise, and no lack of cheek. Altogether, 
however, an incredibly weak production and too 
insignificant for Schelling." (Quotations from German 
sources are translated by Linde Katritzky, unless 
otherwise stated) . Varnhagen 's letter is guoted in 
most of the secondary literature on Bonaventura, e.g. 
Hunter-Lougheed , p. 23. 

11 Paulsen, p. 18 0: "Whoever was Bonaventura, he 
must have been a young man . . .", pp. 172-73. 

12 Jeffrey L. Sammons, The Nachtwachen von 
Bonaventura. A Structural Interpretation (The Hague: 
Mouton & Co., 1965). 

Juvenal, whose sixteen satires are divided into five 
books. 13 The implications of her ingenious inference 
were never seriously pursued, mainly because the 
Nightwatches has always been judged within the 
context of German Romanticism which did not favor 
satire as a genre. The nightwatchman himself, 
however, uses the word "satire" and its derivatives 
repeatedly, and calls himself at the beginning of his 
first round a "satirical Stentor" (p. 31) . The 
metonymic use of the Homeric hero, whose voice 
egualled that of fifty others, emphatically and 
unequivocally identifies Kreuzgang as a satirist, but 
is atypical for a German romantic protagonist. 

Nevertheless, valid reasons exist for an 
allocation of the work to the romantic period apart 
from the date of publication. Many of the concerns in 
the Nightwatches are identical with romantic themes 
or at least close to them. Comparison with English 
satirists will show, however, that these romantic 
leitmotif e could derive from the tradition of 
menippean satire as well. The book contains 
references to Dr. Erasmus Darwin and the London 
clockmaker Samuel Day on both of whom articles 

±J Rita Terras, "Juvenal und die satirische 
Struktur der *Nachtwachen von Bonaventura' . " German 
Quarterly . LI I, (1979), pp. 18-31. 

appeared in Germany in 1804. 14 Consequently it was 
taken for granted that the work could not have been 
written prior to these publications, and that 
Bonaventura must be an author active during 1804. 

This thesis attempts to demonstrate: 
1) that the Nightwatches are a menippean satire 
written in the tradition of eighteenth-century 
British literature, particularly that of Swift, but 
softened by the feeling which Addison, Johnson, and 
especially Fielding added to the genre, and by the 
sentiment contributed by Sterne; 

14 The journal Per Freimiithige carried a 
supplement on "English Literature" on March 2nd, 
18 04, which contained information about Erasmus 
Darwin's The Temple of Nature . Though Darwin's Temple 
of Nature appeared posthumously in 1803, the two 
aspects of it which are used in the Nightwatches were 
favorite ideas of Dr. Darwin and are mentioned in 
both his previous major works, The Botanic Garden 
(1789) and Zoonomia (1794-96) , see Linde Katritzky, 
"Georg Christoph Lichtenberg, F.R.S." Notes and 
Records of the Royal Society of London , XXXIX, Nr. 1, 
1984, pp. 41-49. Another supplement which also 
appeared at the beginning of March described the 
night clock by Samuel Day, to which a footnote in the 
Nightwatches refers at the end of the Sixth 
Nightwatch, see Schillemeit, p. 72. An anonymous 
article about the same clock is also in the Magazin 
aller neuen Erfindungen, Entdeckungen und 
Verbesserungen . IV (Leipzig: Baumgartnerische 
Buchhandlung, n.d.). Hermann Michel, p. xvi, assumes 
that the year of publication is 1804. For 
connections between Darwin and the Lunar Society with 
this clock see Adrien Burchall, "The Noctuary or 
Watchman's Clock: Its Introduction and Development." 
Antiquarian Horology. Proceedings of the Antiguarian 
Horological Society . XV, Nr. 3, 1985, pp. 231-51. 

2) that the book is not the result of impetuous 
inspiration but designed with unusual complexity and 
profundity; it reveals exceptional erudition, and is 
grounded in wide reading which includes English 
literature and philosophy of the eighteenth century; 

3) that the text accords with the opinions and the 
range of learning of the acknowleged master of German 
satire, Georg Christoph Lichtenberg (1742-99), one of 
the prominent representatives of the late 
Enlightenment and a leading German Anglophile. 15 

An assignment of the Nightwatches to the late 
Enlightenment should also lead to a better 
understanding of the interaction between the German 
classic and romantic literary movements, and 
strengthen the conclusions of Anglo-American literary 
criticism that the differences between these two 
epochs are not as distinct as has been traditionally 
maintained in German literary history. 16 Proposing 
the Anglophile, enlightened thinker Lichtenberg as 
the probable author of the enigmatic Nightwatches 

15 These chronological problems are discussed in 
Linde Katritzky, "Eine Untersuchung der Eigennamen in 
den Nachtwachen von Bonaventura und bei Georg 
Christoph Lichtenberg. 11 Thesis for the Degree of 
Master of Arts, Gainesville: University of Florida, 
1984; pp. 38-49. 

16 E.g. M. H. Abrams, The Mirror and the Lamp : 
Romantic Theory and the Critical Tradition (Oxford: 
Oxford University Press, 1953) . 

should therefore imply that the literary habits and 
the scientific thinking of eighteenth-century England 
played a considerable part in the origins of German 
romanticism. It is hoped that this thesis may 
contribute toward clarifying some of these issues, 
though it will deal primarily with the relationship 
of the Niqhtwatches with English satirists of the 
eighteenth century. 

As Bonaventura's text is woven from an unusual 
wealth of material, and infused with allusions and 
associations gathered from the entire range of 
European eighteenth-century experience, I cannot hope 
to deal with the full extent of the implications, 
ambiguities and coded references. I follow Northrop 
Frye in considering this exceptional richness and 
variety not as incidental embellishment, but as one 
of the generic characteristics of menippean satire. 
Frye describes this sub-genre as "a combination of 
fantasy and morality" and defines "creative treatment 
of exhaustive erudition" as its organizing principle. 
He sees Plato as "a strong influence on this type". 17 

1 ' Northrop Frye, Anatomy of Criticism 
(1957; Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1973), 
3rd. paperb. ed. , pp. 310-11. It is worth noting that 
Plato's theories are guoted in the Niqhtwatches (p. 
37) . The thought is repeated without mention of Plato 
on pp. 123, 213. 

In his Anatomy of Satire Gilbert Highet sees 
Bion Borysthenes , a follower of the Socratic 
tradition, as the true originator of what became 
known as the Menippean satire, for he was the "first 
to dress philosophy in the flowery clothes of a 
prostitute. 11 By this is meant that he was the first, 
or at least the first who is known, who explained 
important philosophical problems in the crude terms 
which could be readily understood even by the lowest 
and most illiterate. Bion, a freed slave who was 
born around 325 B.C., thus spread the achievements of 
Greek philosophy among the uneducated, who could 
profit from them though they were unable to deal with 
abstract concepts. 18 

This combination of profound thoughts with the 
free discussion of those aspects of life which are 
usually avoided in polite society became one of the 
distinguishing characteristics of the menippea. 
These were carefully categorised in a penetrating 
study of the genre by Mikhail Bakhtin. 19 He 

18 Gilbert Highet, The Anatomy of Satire 
(Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1962) , pp. 

19 Mikhail Bakhtin, Problems of Dostoevski s 
Poetics. Ed. and transl. Caryl Emerson (1984; 
Minneapolis: University of Minnesota, 1986) . Chap. 
IV, "Characteristics of Genre and Plot Composition in 
Dostoevsky's Works", p. 101-80, esp. p. 112-19. 
Bakhtin 's work appeared first with the title Problems 
of Dostoevsky's Art . Leningrad, 1928. It was expanded 

credits Bion Borysthenes with first mingling 
philosophy with "crude slum naturalism," ( Problems . 
p. 115) and enumerates fourteen particular 
characteristics of the menippean satire, noting 
especially its free interplay of opposite features: 
fact and fantasy; the serious and the comic; 
philosophical universalism and trivialities; wisdom, 
absurdity and insanity. "All sorts of violations of 
the generally accepted and customary course of events 
and the established norms of behaviour and etiguette" 
are classified as part of the menippean concern to 
unmask the deceiving appearances of life and to get 
closer to ultimate truth (Problems, p. 117) . "Sharp 
contrasts and oxymoronic combinations . . . abrupt 
transitions and . . . wide use of inserted genres: 
novellas, letters, oratorial speeches, symposia, and 
so on", widen the scope of the menippea to involve 
the full paradox of life ( Problems , p. 118) • Bakhtin 
calls the levels traditionally explored by the 
menippea: "Olympus, the nether world, and earth" 
( Problems , p. 133) . Every part of the menippea serves 
as "moral experimentation" ( Problems , p. 152) , which 
is the connecting principle of the genre. The 
freguent flights into fantasy and the "creation of 

for a second edition, Moscow, 1963, and did not 
become available to the West until twenty years later. 

extraordinary situations" are therefore not subject 
to whim, but are carefully designed to serve "as a 
mode for searching after truth, provoking it, and, 
most important, testing it." Thus "the fantastic is 
subordinated to the purely ideational function," 
( Problems , p. 114) and the possibilities of human 
experience in every extreme are invoked in a guest 
for the essence and purpose of life. This search is 
also the motivation of Kreuzgang, Bonaventura's 
protagonist, and the organizing principle of his 
sixteen nightwatches . 

In regard to this unlimited variety of subject 
matter Bahktin remarks that "while possessing an 
inner integrity, the genre of the menippea 
simultaneously possesses great external plasticity 
and a remarkable capacity to absorb into itself 
kindred small genres, and to penetrate as a component 
element into other large genres" ( Problem , p. 119) . 
This loosely connected narrative form is operative 
throughout the Nightwatches and was supposedly 
practised by the Greek cynic Menippus. His works 
have not survived, but among his followers were the 
Greek Lucian and the Roman Varro, and later Petronius 
and Apuleius. At first the genre used a mixture of 
prose and verse, and for this reason a French 
collection of political satires which appeared 

anonymously in 1594 took the title Satire Menippee , 
for it used a medley of styles and languages. 

As the menippea brings together different 
elements which are taken from a large variety of 
other genres, it is not very stable and has no pure 
form. It "has baffled critics, and there is hardly 
any fiction writer deeply influenced by it who has 
not been accused of disorderly conduct." 20 Precisely 
this accusation, levelled against the early work of 
Dostoevsky, led Bakhtin to investigate Dostoevsky 's 
poetics, to define the genre and to detect the 
pattern of intellectual purpose and structural 
organisation. His conclusions apply also in 
remarkable degree to the Nightwatches , a work which 
has likewise attracted a large share of criticism for 
nonconformity to the generic demands of the novel.** 

Similarities between Dostoevsky 's early work and 
the Nicrhtwatches have already been noted by Rado 
Pribic in his study, Bonaventura's "Nachtwachen" and 
Dostoevsky ' s "Notes from the Underground ." Pribic 
calls this: "A Comparison in Nihilism," and 

20 Frye, p. 313. 

21 E.g. Jeffrey L. Sammons, "In Search of 
Bonaventura: The Nachtwachen Riddle 1965-85." The 
Germanic Review , LXI, Nr. 2, 1986, p. 50: ". 
failures of coherence not only indicate haste in 
composition but make me doubt that the book was 
written by a major author of the time." 

interprets both the Nightwatches and the Notes from 
the Underground from this perspective. He gives a 
plausible explanation why Dostoevsky could have been 
familiar with the German work, of which many copies 
were left unsold in St. Petersburg, when Dienemann 
collapsed in 1806. 22 

The author of the Nightwatches has deliberately 
structured his text as a menippea. Numerous 
references indicate intentional adherence to its 
standards. Comparison with English eighteenth- 
century satire shows that he followed the examples of 
Swift, Fielding, Sterne and others. The Nightwatches 
also reveals its author to be well aguainted with 
German thought. Echoes of Lessing's work are 
particularly noticeable, especially the "69. Stuck" 
of the "Hamburgische Dramaturgie. " 23 

Conscious choice of genre is an eighteenth- 
century attitude and one of the conventions and 
restrictions which the Sturm und Drang in Germany 
tried to sweep away, and against which the romantic 
writers also revolted. It is therefore a 

22 Rado Pribic, Bonaventura's "Nachtwachen" and 
Dostoevsky 's "Notes from the Underground." A 
Comparison in Nihilism . Slavistische Beitrage, Vol. 
79 (Munchen: Otto Sagner, 1974), p. 10. 

2 3 Gotthold Ephraim Lessings samtliche 
Schrif ten . Ed. Karl Lachmann (1894; rpt. Berlin: 
Walter de Gruyter, 1968), Vol. 10, "Hamburgische 
Dramaturgie, '69. Stuck'," pp. 76-80. 

characteristic which sets the author of the 
Niqhtwatches apart from these literary movements. 
Nevertheless the romantic period was rich in 
menippean elements which, as Bakhtin notes, were 
especially prominent and influential in E.T.A. 
Hoffmann ( Problems . p. 155) . An investigation of the 
Niqhtwatches reveals the English contribution to this 
development, and shows that the paradox of the 
exceptional originality of this work, within a 
crowded reference system of constantly recalled 
literary works of outstanding merit, was achieved in 
accordance with Edward Young's prescript on how to 
imitate the masters properly: "Let us be as far from 
neglecting, as from copying, their admirable 
compositions . " 

This aspect of Young's conjectures on 
originality was brushed aside by the German 
enthusiasts who only followed Young in extolling the 
merits of genius. Bonaventura, however, as did 
Lichtenberg, also listened to Young's further advice: 
"It is by a sort of noble contagion, from a general 
familiarity with their writings, and not by any 
particular sordid theft, that we can be the better 
for those who went before us." Like Lichtenberg 
after him, Young also stressed the importance of 
imitating methods, which are of universal importance, 

rather than works, which are relevant to conditions 
of the past. Thus he pointed out: "He that imitates 
the divine Iliad , does not imitate Homer; but he who 
takes the same method, which Homer took, for arriving 
at a capacity of accomplishing a work so great." 24 

Bonaventura, like the German writers of the 
Storm and Stress, and of the romantic period, 
disdained imitation of previous texts, but unlike 
these contemporaries did not reject the past, but 
studied the methods and aims of outstanding previous 
writers in depth. This thesis traces the influence 
of the English eighteenth-century satirists on his 
text, and also attempts to demonstrate that 
Bonaventura, in taking their methods, also studied 
the sources of their inspiration. 

z ^ Edward Young, "Conjectures on Original 
Composition." Critical Theory since Plato . Ed. 
Hazard Adams (New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 
1971) , pp. 340-341. 



Georg Christoph Lichtenberg, whose patterns of 
thought show striking parallels to those of 
Bonaventura, was born in 1742 in Ober-Ramstadt , a 
small town near Darmstadt. He was the seventeenth and 
last child of a Lutheran pastor who came from a 
family with a strong pietist ic tradition. Such views 
were favored by the court in Darmstadt at the time 
and in 1750 Konrad Lichtenberg was therefore 
appointed Superintendent of Church affairs for the 
principality. He died, however, the following year, 
leaving his widow in straitened circumstances. From 
early youth his youngest son suffered from a spinal 
weakness which eventually dwarfed and crippled him. 
A natural liveliness and inclination to socialize 
notwithstanding, this handicap imposed on him the 
position of an outsider, and as such he developed and 
perfected his unusually keen gifts as an observer. 

His talents were fostered at the Grammar School 
in Darmstadt. He left in 1761 with an excellent 
record, but had to wait until 1763 before he could 



enter the university in Gottingen, for he was 
dependent on a stipend from his sovereign, which 
could only be obtained with difficulty. 

How he spent the intervening years can be 
surmised from a letter he wrote to Johann Arnold 
Ebert (1723-95) in 1794. He calls him his teacher of 
thirty-three years ago and recalls the endless 
nocturnal hours he was then devoting to Young's Night 
Thoughts, a work which Ebert had vigorously promoted 
and translated several times. 1 

Lichtenberg developed and maintained a close 
relationship with the man from whose work he had 
profited in his autodidactic efforts to acquire a 
knowledge of English and England. Ebert played a 
prominent part in the change of German cultural 
orientation from France to England at a time when 
French was still the leading foreign language in 
Germany. English literature was mainly known through 
French mediation, notably by Voltaire, whose Letters 
Philosophiques (1734) first aroused continental 
interest in English affairs, and by Diderot. Ebert 
was himself a minor poet, and John Louis Kind gives 
him much credit for subordinating his own creativity 

1 Georg Christoph Lichtenberg, Schriften und 
Brief e . 5 vols. Ed. Wolfgang Promies. Vol. IV, 
Briefe (Miinchen: Hanser: 1967), p. 893, Letter to 
Johann Arnold Ebert, July 31, 1794. 


to the promotion of English writers, especially 
Edward Young (1683-1765) . While his own work 
received little notice, "all contemporary writers, 
commentators, and periodicals join in the universal 
acclamation and praise over the zeal, scholarship, 
and merit of the 'foremost and greatest English 
scholar and genius', the translator of the 'Night 
Thoughts ' 11 . 

From 1751 onwards, Ebert published translations 
of the "Night Thoughts," as well as of Young's other 
works, and he revised them until the year before his 
death. Kind calls him "one of the ablest German 
translators of English writers in the eighteenth 
century." Ebert "devoted the best part of his life 
to the works of Young, learned English early and read 
all the foremost British authors in the original." 
While he ardently admired Young, he also saw his 
weaknesses, and the merits of Young's fellow- 
countrymen . 2 

Ebert had belonged to a group of young Leipzig 
students who had gathered round Christian Furchtegott 
Gellert (1715-1769) , one of the leading literary 
figures of the German enlightenment. They became 

z John Louis Kind, Edward Young in Germany (New 
York: AMS Press, 1966), p. 82. 

(Quotations are documented at the end of the 
relevant passage.) 


interested in eighteenth-century English literature, 
which they originally studied in French translations, 
and they contributed to a journal inspired by 
Addison's example, the Neue Beytrage zuro Vergnugen 
des Verstandes und des Witzes , usually called the 
Bremer Beytrage . The journal flourished from 1745- 
17 4 8 and showed a strong interest in English 
literature, introducing, for instance, the works of 
Prior, Glover and Thomson to German readers. The 
contributors admired Pope and Swift, and adopted the 
organization of the Scriblerus Club. They met in a 
Leipzig coffee house and cooperated on unsigned 
articles. 3 To this circle belonged also men of such 
distinction as Klopstock, Lessing and his cousin 
Christlob Mylius, the brothers Johann Elias and 
Johann Adolf Schlegel, and Gotthelf Abraham Kastner 
(1719-1800) , first Lichtenberg' s professor and then 
his colleague in Gottingen. Kastner was as celebrated 
for his satiric epigrams as for his brilliance in 
mathematics, and Lichtenberg 's personal acguaintance 
with leading members of this group of distinguished 
Anglophiles, such as Lessing and Klopstock, appears 
to be due to Kastner. 

J Leonard Marsden Price, English Literature in 
Germany (Berkeley: University of California Press, 
1953), p. 59. 


Ebert had originally planned to translate all 
the most important English works, but, starting with 
the first seven "Nights" of Young, he soon found his 
energies fully absorbed in the task "of translating, 
annotating, and expounding from his chair in 
Braunschweig the works of Young alone." 4 
Lichtenberg developed a specially close bond to this 
thorough scholar, and kept up a lifelong exchange of 
ideas with him. 

The easy familiarity with English literature, 
which Lichtenberg had already acquired when he 
started his notebooks in 1764, prepared him perfectly 
for the life in Gottingen, to which he came as a 
student of mathematics and astronomy in 1763. With 
the exception of two visits to England and several 
minor excursions in Germany, he remained there for 
the rest of his life. The University of Gottingen 
had been founded 1734-37 by King George II, who was 
also the Elector of Hanover, and thus the new seat of 
learning was destined from the start to become a 
particularly active center of Anglo-German cultural 
exchange. The exceptionally liberal conditions which 
the absent ruler had created for his new institution 
attracted many of the brightest scholars, both as 
teachers and students. A constant influx of young 

4 Price, English Literature in Germany , p. 115. 


Englishmen, eager to finish their education in their 
sovereign's foreign domain, ensured continuing 
contact with the latest intellectual developments in 

Lichtenberg visited England for the first time 
in 1770 as a guest of Lord Boston, the influential 
father of one of his earliest students, and was 
introduced by him not only to the social and 
intellectual leaders of London society, among them 
Joseph Priestley, but also to the king himself. As a 
result of this meeting, Lichtenberg came to London 
again in 1774, this time the personal guest of King 
George III and Queen Charlotte in their royal palace 
at Kew . 5 

Lichtenberg freely shared his impressions from 
this journey in lively communications which were 
widely read already during his own lifetime, for even 
in an age in which letter writing had been perfected 
as an art he was acclaimed as a correspondent of 
outstanding wit and brilliance. He was always attuned 
to the status and concerns of his addressees, ranging 
from Marie Tietermann, housekeeper of the Osnabriick 
inn at which he stayed during 1772/73 while surveying 

b Hans Ludwig Gumbert, "Der 22. April 1770." Das 
Lichtenberq-Gesprach in Ober-Ramstadt 1977 . Ed. Otto 
Weber (Ober-Ramstadt: Verein fur Heimatgeschichte 
e.V., 1982), pp. 5-16. 


the country in the service of the king, to leading 
scientists and high officials. His letters display 
not only his stylistic versatility, but also afford a 
particularly comprehensive overview of the concerns 
of his times, traits in which Bonaventura, too, 
displays particular competence. To keep abreast of 
current issues and affairs was one of Lichtenbergs 
foremost aims, for he followed his own advice " Bemiihe 
dich, nicht unter deiner Zeit zu sein ." 6 His keen 
observations, deeply reflected experiences and 
penetrating opinions are also preserved in his 
writings on a large number of subjects, and in his 
voluminous private notes, started in 1764, which 
record his intellectual pursuits. All these give 
insight into one of the leading minds of the late 
enlightenment and into the interchange of ideas which 
shaped the epoch. The extent to which Lichtenberg 
contributed to the intellectual and scientific 

b Promies, Vol. I, p. 302, D 474. 

Lichtenberg' s posthumously published notes, his 
so-called aphorisms, are numbered according to the 
letters assigned by himself to his notebooks. The 
individual notes were given consecutive numbers by A. 
Leitzmann in 1902, who, however, omitted many of the 
notes which were considered of minor importance at 
the time, especially those with scientific content. 
Promies published the entire notes for the first 
time, and though he retained Leitzmann' s system, he 
he had to change the numbers. All guotations conform 
to his usage. 


concerns of his age is only now revealed by recent 
editions of his entire works. 7 

Access to this material has resulted in a 
growing awareness of the importance and topical 
relevance of Lichtenberg 's thoughts, which is also 
reflected in the publication of the contents of his 
library. 8 Though their variety is impressive, the 
large number of books Lichtenberg owned at his death 
is by no means indicative of all his reading. Only 
Hesperus by Jean Paul (No. 1614) is listed, for 
instance, while notebook entries show that 
Lichtenberg knew and critically appraised all the 
works of this writer which appeared during his own 
life time (L 87, L 514, L 581, L 592, L 615). 9 

7 Besides the authoritative Promies ed. (1968- 
74) there is Georg Christoph Lichtenberg. Schriften 
und Brief e . 4 vols. Ed. Franz H. Mautner (Frankfurt: 
Insel, 1983) ; Briefwechsel . Ed. Ulrich Joost and 
Albrecht Schone (Miinchen: C. H. Beck), Vol. I, 1983, 
Vol. II, 1985. The planned 5 vols, will bring 
together the 1650 letters still known to exist. 
(Previously 1215 of Lichtenberg' s letters were 
printed in 65 different publications, Vol. I, p. XV). 

The documents concerning the two visits to 
England are found in Lichtenberg in England. 
Dokumente einer Begegnung , 2 vols. Ed. Hans Ludwig 
Gumbert (Wiesbaden: Otto Harrassowitz , 1977). 

8 Bibliotheca Lichtenbergiana . Katalog der 
Bibliothek Georg Christoph Lichtenbergs . Ed. and ann. 
Hans Ludwig Gumbert (Wiesbaden: Otto Harrassowitz, 
1982) . Nos. in the text follow Gumbert. 

y Lichtenberg' s notebook entries are numbered 
in chronological order, the letters denoting his 
diaries. I guote according to Promies, Vols. I and II. 


Much similar proof of Lichtenberg' s critically 
astute and wide-ranging reading exists. Only a few 
selected examples, which throw special light on his 
interests and habits, can therefore be given in this 
preliminary survey, but more information from the 
Bibliotheca Lichtenbergiana will be provided in 
following chapters. In view of the remarkable overlap 
with the concerns of Bonaventura, it is noteworthy 
that Lichtenberg kept his library up to date until 
shortly before his death on February 24th, 1799, in 
spite of his rapidly declining health. Investigation 
of the proper names in the Nightwatches has 
correspondingly shown that Bonaventura uses up-to- 
date information until 1798, with a particular 
concentration of remarks and allusions connected to 
scientific progress made during the last decade of 
the century. 10 

The four decisive centers of English influence 
on German letters during the eighteenth century were 
Hamburg, Zurich, Leipzig and Gottinge, 11 and 
Lichtenberg was personally involved with events in 
all of them. In Gottingen he was himself the leading 

10 Katritzky, "Untersuchung der Eigennamen, 11 pp. 

11 Leonard Marsden Price, Engl ish>German 
Literary Influences (Berkeley: University of 
California Press, 1919) , pp. 159-61. 


Anglophile, and close to many of the intellectual 
leaders who emerged from the Leipzig circle, though 
he kept modestly guiet about his prestigious 
connections. Only one sentence in a letter of July 
31st, 1794, relates Young's and Ebert's lasting 
impression on Lichtenberg' s mind, 12 and a single, 
tantalizingly terse note witnesses to his only 
recorded meeting with Lessing, on March 8th, 1777: 
"Lessing called" (F 406) . 

Such glimpses have to be supplemented with 
information gleaned from other sources. In Lessing 's 
case many remarks reveal a high regard, which shows 
itself also in efforts to find a befitting epitaph 
for a genius who was so greatly neglected and ill 
rewarded for his great contributions to German 
letters (J 239 and 313) . Lichtenberg was well versed 
in Lessing 's works and owned several, among them 
Ernst and Falk. Discussions for Freemasons (1778) . 
On August 31st, 1778, he reported to Heinrich 
Christian Boie that he had read the manuscript of 
this treatise, which he called one of the best works 
he had seen in a long time, adding that if freemasons 
are the people described by Lessing it must be a sin 

1Z Promies, Vol. IV, No. 665. An Johann Arnold 
Ebert, p. 893. 


against human nature not to be counted among them. 13 
This positive view of freethinkers is shared by 
Bonaventura. 14 The first three of the discussions 
between Ernst und Falk had been published by Johann 
Christian Dieterich (1722-1800) , Lichtenberg' s friend 
and landlord, whose connections with men of letters 
extended and reinforced Lichtenberg' s own contacts. 
Two volumes of Lessing's Hamburgische Dramaturgie 
were also in Lichtenberg 7 s library. In this major 
work of mediation between English and German culture 
"Part 69" is concerned with serio-comic writing and 
starts with a reminder of the strong Spanish 
influences on this genre. Lessing guotes here at 
length from the satiric New Art of Comedy Writing , in 
which Lope de Vega acknowledges classic sources for 
the intermingling of serious and ludicrous aspects, 
and arrives at the conclusion: "Nature itself teaches 
us this diversity, and in this her beauty partly 
originates . " 15 

In the same article Lessing also pleads in 
favour of the Hanswurst , the clown banned from the 
German stage by the strict Johann Christoph Gottsched 

13 Ed. Joost, Briefwechsel . Vol. I, No. 521, p. 


14 Nicrhtwatches . pp. 31-36 

15 Lessings samtliche Schriften . Vol. X, 
"Hamburgische Dramaturgie, '69. Stuck'," pp. 76-80. 


(1700-1766) for disorderly behaviour and free use of 
unseemly language. Lessing suggests satirically that 
the antics of this popular character should be 
confined to the stage, and not in future be witnessed 
so frequently in real life. Stage metaphors — a 
recurring device in tragi-comedy — are used by Lessing 
in various ways in this article, as when he deplores 
that in plays as in life the most important roles are 
so often allocated to the worst actors. 
Correspondingly the Hanswurst in the Fourth 
Nightwatch "excuses the marionette director for 
having ordered things like our Lord God and entrusted 
the most important roles to the least talented 
actors" (p. 75) . The "marionette play with Clown" 
(p. 73) contains also various other references to the 
theory of tragi-comic writing as explained by 
Lessing, whom Bonaventura singles out with Kant, 
Goethe and Schiller (pp. 179, 181). 

This puppet interlude in the Fourth Nightwatch 
with its heroine Columbine, is also linked to Justus 
Moser (1720-94) , with whom Lichtenberg was personally 
acquainted, and whose books he kept in his library. 16 
Chief justice of the criminal court in Hanover, privy 
councilor and councilor of justice, Moser was expert 
in various subjects, notably law and history. He was 

16 Bibliotheca Lichtenbergiana , Nos. 1164 and 1883. 


also keenly interested in literature and literary 
criticism, which he regarded in accordance with the 
English Enlightenment as a means of educating the 
public. He wrote a treatise in defense of Harlequin 
in which he commented on the commedia del 1' arte . To 
him this genre represented a world where the 
grotesque is part of a peculiar circle or microcosm 
to which Columbine and other traditional characters 
belong. Literary use of such standard characters he 
commended as a convenient shortcut and abbreviation, 
as their universally known traits obliterate the need 
for detailed exposition. 17 

Gottingen provided excellent opportunities to 
keep pace with intellectual developments in Germany 
and was the ideal place to contact those in England 
who, under George III, actively continued the liberal 
cultural policy of the founder. Lichtenberg had only 
a very meager stipend when he started his career in 
Gottingen, but his exceptional linguistic competence 
assured him the post of tutor to young English 
noblemen, and by this means he continued to 
supplement his income during most of his life. Many 

17 Justus Moser, Samtliche Werke , Vol. II. Ed. 
Oda May (Oldenburg: Gerhard Stalling, 1981) . 
"Harlekin oder Verteidigung des Grotesk-Komischen" 
(1761), pp. 306-342. Mikhail Bakhtin. Rabelais and 
His World (1965; Cambridge, Mass.: The M.I.T. Press, 
1968) . Bakhtin comments on "Harekin's" influence on 
tragi-comic writing, pp. 35-36. 


years later, when the younger royal princes were sent 
to study in Gottingen, Lichtenberg was appointed 
their tutor and they came to live in his house. 18 
Though a third visit to England never materialized, 
the constant influx of students and visitors from 
England enabled Lichtenberg to keep in close touch 
with the newest thoughts and developments there, and 
in 1793 he was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society 
of London, with which he had already been in close 
contact since his first acguaintance with Priestley. 

From 1765 onwards, Lichtenberg wrote his 
assorted thoughts into notebooks, for which he 
himself suggested the English word "wastebooks" (E 
46) . The expression is taken from the language of 
merchants and refers to a rough ledger into which 
everything is entered as it occurs, without the order 
which is imposed during a later draft. The term 
therefore indicates the intention to utilise these 
thoughts for further writing, and many were indeed 
used by him for this purpose in miscellaneous ways. 
When they were posthumously published, the editors 

- LO Mautner, Vol. IV, pp. 484-85, letter to 
Samuel Thomas Sommering, June 2nd, 1786. Adolf 
Friedrich was in Gottingen 1786-1791, August 
Friedrich 1786-90, Ernst August 1786-1791. 


added numbers to the notes, which became collectively 
known as aphorisms. 19 

Franz H. Mautner starts his discussion on the 
themes of the early notebooks with the statement: 
"The most frequent object of Lichtenberg ' s 
observations, of his thoughts and therefore also of 
his ideas is man " . 20 As Mautner shows, Lichtenberg 's 
notes mirror the tendency of his age to unite all 
intellectual disciplines into a "science of man," a 
task in which Lichtenberg himself was actively 
engaged. The attempt to work towards an 

"understanding of man in all levels of society" (F 
37) constituted, indeed, the unifying idea behind the 
multifarious interests and investigations, to which 
Lichtenberg ' s work as professor of natural philosophy 
and astronomy inevitably led. Through his passion for 
knowledge and constant application "he became the 
leading German expert in a number of scientific 
fields, including geodesy, geophysics, meteorology, 
astronomy, chemistry, statistics, and geometry, in 

19 The first edition aiming at some sort of 
comprehensiveness was undertaken by Albert Leitzmann, 
who chose the name Aphorismen , though only part of 
the notes belong to this genre which made Lichtenberg 
famous. Georg Christoph Lichtenbergs Aphorismen . Ed. 
Albert Leitzmann. Deutsche Literaturdenkmale (Berlin, 
1902-08; rpt. Nendeln, Liechtenstein: Kraus, 1968). 

20 Franz H. Mautner, Lichtenberg. Geschichte 
seines Geistes (Berlin: Walter de Gruyter, 1968) , 

p. 10 . 


addition to his foremost field and prime interest — 
experimental physics." 21 

Bonaventura combines these diverse interests in 
his metaphors and images, as in his whole outlook on 
life. The description of Don Juan "all in flames like 
a volcano, through whose millenary layers the inner 
fire all at once found its vent" (pp. 91 and 93) , is 
but one of many examples, while signifying themes 
from natural history permeate the entire work, like 
the recurring references to Versteinerung — 
petrification, fossil ization--or the persistent 
descriptions of thunder and lightning. 22 

Lichtenberg' s pioneering electrical experiments 
were famous. In 1780 he erected in Gottingen one of 
the first lightning conductors, and his innovations 
attracted the attention of Allessandro Volta (1745- 
1827), who visited him in 1784 and 1785. With the 
leading work of Benjamin Franklin (1706-90) in this 
field, Lichtenberg was, of course, familiar, but 
characteristically he did not restrict his interest 

21 Dictionary of Scientific Biography , Vol. 
VIII (New York: Scribners, 1973). 

22 The decisive importance of the understanding 
and demystif ication of thunderstorms is pointed out 
by Engelhard Weigl, "Entzauberung der Natur durch 
Wissenschaft — dargestellt am Beispiel der Erfindung 
des Bl itzableiters , " Jahrbuch der Jean-Paul- 
Gesellschaft . XXII, 1987, pp. 7-39. Lichtenberg 7 s 
contribution is highlighted, esp. pp. 21-22. 


in Franklin to the professional aspect alone. He 

reported to J. A. H. Reimarus in 1792 that whatever 

Franklin wrote was distinguished by bons sens , and 

that in his writing, be it on the constitution of a 

new nation or the cure of smoky chimneys, the quid 

was as instructive as the quomodo . 2 3 The epitaph 

which Franklin had composed for himself Lichtenberg 

copied down in English: 

The body of/Benjamin Franklin, Printer/ ( like a 
cover of an old book/its contents worn out/and 
stript of its lettering and gilding)/ Lies 
here, food for the worms, '/yet the work shall 
not be lost/For it shall (as he believed) appear 
once more, in a new and most beautiful 
Edition, /corrected and revised/by the author. 

F 738 

As Lichtenberg himself was actively involved in 
the publishing business of his friend Dieterich, 
metaphors taken from the printers' language had, as 
to Bonaventura, a special appeal for him, and like 
the author of the Niohtwatches he was obsessed by 
thoughts about eternity. The entry D 372, for 
instance, states in one of the tantalizing 
compressions which often baffle commentators: 

ZJ Mautner, Schriften und Brief e . Vol. IV, p. 
608. Lichtenberg refers to: "A Letter from Dr. B. 
Franklin, to Dr. Ingenhausz, Physician to the 
Emperor, at Vienna, on the Causes and Cure of Smokey 
Chimneys in Transactions of the American 
Philosophical Society . Philadelphia, Vol. II, p. 1- 

Material from Franklin's letter is used in two 
entries in the so-called Goldpapierheft , Nos. 38-39, 
Promies Vol. II, p. 219. 

"Message to the book-binder regarding the immortality 
of the book." A note from the last wastebook claims: 
"The art of printing is indeed a Messiah among the 
inventions" (L 667) . In a similar vein, Bonaventura 
has his poor poet start his "Letter of refusal to 
Life" in Franklin's terminology: "Man is good for 
nothing. Therefore I am striking him out. My Man has 
found no publisher, neither as persona vera nor 
ficta; for the last (my tragedy) no book dealer is 
willing to advance the printing costs" (p. 133) . 

Franklin's sentiments are even more closely 
paraphrased in the call to the "Beloved fellow 
citizens!" during the faked judgement day, when 
Kreuzgang declares in exasperation: "Behind you lies 
the whole of world history like a silly novel, in 
which there are some few tolerable characters and a 
legion of wretched ones. Ah, your Lord God made a 
mistake only in this one regard, that he did not 
himself elaborate it but left it up to you to write 
at it. Tell me, will he indeed consider it now worth 
the effort to translate the botched thing into a 
higher language or must he not rather, when he sees 
it lying before him in its whole shallowness, tear it 
to shreds in wrath and deliver you with all your 
plans over to oblivion?" (p. 105) . 


Bonaventura, like Lichtenberg, will develop and 
rephrase his models rather than quote them, because 
both are stimulated to develop their exceptionally 
original ideas by pondering on and reacting to the 
accepted canon. Lichtenberg urged readers to 
"endeavour to stay abreast of your time" (D 474) , 
Bonaventura"s agreement with this maxim is revealed 
by the ease with which he draws analogues from the 
wide range of eighteenth century epistemology . The 
large number of Lichtenberg 7 s letters 24 and his 
notebooks provide much clearer insights into the 
development and applications of his thoughts than are 
available for most other thinkers, and they also make 
it possible in many instances to trace where and how 
they originated. A further and invaluable source for 
this information is the catalogue of Lichtenberg 's 
library. This has been assembled by Hans Ludwig 
Gumbert by adding to the inventory of books that were 
auctioned, the list of the works which friends put 
aside for the family after Lichtenberg' s death, and 
the handwritten record of those books which 
Lichtenberg lent to others between September 18th, 
1785 and January 1799. Though Gumbert has 

accumulated by such means 1911 entries, many 

24 Unfortunately nothing has survived of letters 
to and from England, though there is much indirect 
evidence in his writings that many were written and received. 


including several volumes, he also cautions that a 
complete catalogue of Lichtenberg 's library can never 
be reconstructed. 25 This is mainly owing to 
Lichtenberg ' s extensive lending habits, which 
resulted from his conviction that good books must be 
circulated as much as possible. Thus his own reading 
preferences contributed significantly to the 
intellectual climate of his age. 

Starting already with D 9, Lichtenberg, for 
instance, repeatedly mentions that he was reading, 
and striving to understand, Jacob Bohme. Yet nothing 
can be traced in his possession of this mystic, who 
is considered a specially formative influence on the 
romantic epoch. 26 Liberal lending habits may well 
account for this gap. They may also be responsible 
for the lack of any works by Hans Sachs (1494-1576) 
to whom Lichtenberg referred with familiarity during 
his early years. 27 Of the Dutch philosopher Frans 

25 Bibliotheca Lichtenbergiana , pp. xi-xii. 

26 Fritz Martini, Deutsche Literaturgeschichte 
(Stuttgart: Alfred Kroner, 1968), p. 333: "The 
mystical tradition of a Meister Eckhart, Tauber and 
Jakob Bohme merged during the romantic epoch with a 
speculative natural science that searched for magical 
and subconscious depths." Also Adams, pp. 216 and 218. 

27 Ed. Joost, Briefwechsel . Vol. I, Letters Nos. 
102, 103, 108, written at the end of 1772. Hans 
Sachs is also regarded as a rediscovery of the 
romantics, because of their love for the Middle Ages, 
see Martini, p. 327. 


Hemsterhuis ( 17 2 1-9 ) --1 ikewise mentioned by 
Bonaventura and another favourite of the romantic 
age — Lichtenberg owned five volumes; two, the Oevres 
philosophiques . a present from Friedrich Heinrich 
Jacobi, who had translated some of Hemsterhuis' 
writings. 28 

An unusually large number of Lichtenberg 's books 
were gifts received from authors and publishers, and 
also from well-wishers, among them George III. While 
unsolicited contributions to the library somewhat 
complicate the question of what Lichtenberg actually 
read, they reflect in themselves his wide contacts, 
and the esteem in which he was held by the learned. 
Though Lichtenberg could not afford to spend much on 
books and died at a comparatively early age, Gumbert 
judges his collection as of the highest possible 
standing. 29 

A special feature is its comprehensiveness; 
mathematics and natural sciences comprise catalogue 
numbers 1-951, while 952-1911 cover the other fields 
of knowledge, with a particularly strong emphasis on 
philosophy and literature. Here as elsewhere English 
works, both in the original and in translation, are 
strongly represented, as are the classic authors upon 

28 Bibliotheca Lichtenbergiana r Nos. 1307-1310. 
Bibliotheca Lichtenberqiana , pp. xv-xvi. 


whom English eighteenth-century criticism relied so 
heavily that Ian Jack regards the Augustan Age, with 
its faith in classical theory, as the last epoch of 
the Renaissance. 30 

Jack's concern is with satire, and in this field 
Lichtenberg's library was especially well stocked. 
He owned the works of Horace in Latin and English, 
among them the prestigious edition by Baskerville, 
1762 (Nos. 1516-1522). He owned a selection of 
dialogues (No. 1523) by Lucian, a German translation 
of Juvenal and a volume of satires by Juvenal and 
Persius (Nos. 1728-29) . The Satiricon of Petronius 
is represented in a Latin, a German and an English 
edition (Nos. 1746-48). Only fragments of this Roman 
satire have survived. They come from the 15th and 
16th part, subdivisions which are numerically 
reflected also in the Nightwatches . 31 

Only in his first published satire, Timorus 
(1771) , did Lichtenberg give vent to his own 
sarcastic criticism of the legal apparatus; for while 
such attacks had become part of English satire and 
had always been a strong ingredient of the menippea, 

30 Ian Jack, Augustan Satire. Intention and 
Idiom in English Poetry . 1660-1700 (Oxford: Clarendon 
Press, 1952) , p. 156. 

31 The Wor ks of Petronius Arbiter (1736; rpt New 
York: AMS Press, 1975) . 


in Germany they were not tolerated. Consequently his 
remarks in this area are mainly confined to his 
private notes, and to reflections that in Germany 
only private themes, particularly the world of 
learning, remained safe subjects for satire (e.g. J 
865) . 

Lichtenberg' s concern with the procedures of law 
was, however, strongly represented in his library by 
Nos. 1208-1238a, which include a work on a case of 
infanticide (No. 1227) by Gottfried August Burger 
(1747-94) , who lived for a while also in Dieterich's 
house, and was helped and befriended by Lichtenberg. 
A man of many parts, he became most famous for his 
ballad "Lenore" (1774) , which is cited as an example 
for love transcending the boundaries of life in the 
Tenth Nightwatch (p. 161) . No. 1213 is a compendium 
on German Civil Law by the Gottingen professor H. M. 
G. Grellmann (1756-1804), who also wrote a book on 
gypsies, in which he attempted to investigate their 
history, way of life and tribal constitution 
(No. 1839). This work was printed by Dieterich in 
1783, and Lichtenberg had a copy of the second 
edition (1787) in his library. The author of the 
Nightwatches uses the authentic gypsy term for people 
outside their tribe, Blanker (p. 234) , a sign that he 
was well versed in gypsy ways and lore. 


From another professorial colleague, C. F. G. 
Meister, brother of Lichtenberg's teacher, 
predecessor and friend, A. L. F. Meister, there are 
the first two parts of a voluminous work on criminal 
law (No. 1231) . Though such books were usually gifts 
from author or printer, there is evidence that 
Lichtenberg actually used them, for legal analogies 
are often employed in his writings. 

A specially remarkable feature of Lichtenberg's 
library is the number of English books in all its 
many subdivisions. Among the law titles ten works 
fall in this category, two of them in German 
translation. No. 1233 includes " The whole 

Proceedings of the King's Commission of the Peace . . 
. held at Justice Hall in the Old Bailey. Taken in 
Short-Hand . London, 1775-90." How much Lichtenberg 
actually owned of this extensive series remains 
doubtful, as he lent parts of his collection to 
friends, among them Burger. 

Lichtenberg's extensive knowledge and use of 
English books is so well attested that Hans Ludwig 
Gumbert was first alerted to the incompleteness of 
the library auction catalogue through its lack of 
works by Pope and Fielding. 32 These were then 
located in the list of books kept for the family. Few 

32 Bibliotheca Lichtenbergiana , p. 208; p. xi. 


of the leading English authors of the eighteenth 
century were found to be missing, and of many 
important works there is more than one edition, and 
frequently a German translation as well. 

Of Shakespeare (No. 1796-1801) , for instance, 
there are nine volumes of the London edition of 1760, 
and ten volumes of the London edition of 1773, the 
latter with notes by Samuel Johnson and George 
Steevens. There is also a German translation by 
Johann Joachim Eschenburg (1743-1820) , an Anglophile 
whom Lichtenberg knew well and with whom he 
corresponded. Only volumes VI and VII of this 1775- 
77 edition could be found in Lichtenberg ' s 
possession. Gumbert assumes that the others were lost 
in lending. 33 Of the separate copies which 
Lichtenberg owned, King Lear and Timon of Athens were 
published by the Theatre-Royal in Drury Lane, while 
Hamlet and Macbeth were from the Johnson edition 
(Nos. 1796-1801). Wieland is represented by Nos. 
1631- 33, though not by his Shakespeare translation. 
Lichtenberg had a specially high esteem for this 
author, whom he aligned with Shakespeare and Sterne 
(B 322) . 

Johnson was regarded by Lichtenberg as a 
particularly significant writer, and valued 

33 Bibliotheca Lichtenbergiana , p. 284. 


especially for his clarity of thought and the 
apparent facility with which he explains moral and 
abstract precepts in simple parabolic metaphors (J 
788) . Johnson's writings are densely dotted with 
memorable maxims and aphorisms, in which everyday 
experience is distilled into precepts of general 
validity, a mode of expression which was to bring 
acclaim to Lichtenberg too. They shared other 
attitudes, notably a rejection of the prevailing urge 
to construct intellectual systems, partly because of 
their confining narrowness, but even more so because 
they are inconsistent with the everchanging realities 
of life and do not take into account the inadeguacy 
of human knowledge. Though they saw no virtue in the 
mere accumulation of knowledge, they upheld the value 
of tradition, but stressed the limitations of human 
understanding and hence the necessity to keep options 
open. Neither attempted therefore to record his 
philosophy in a systematic manner. 

Jean H. Hagstrum shows that Johnson approached 
literature as the representation of the available and 
universal experience of life, and that he expected 
literature to lead back again to life and 
experience. 34 Lichtenberg shared this view, and like 

34 Jean H. Hagstrum, Samuel Johnson's Literary 
Criticism (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 
(1952) 1968), pp. 174, 179. 


Johnson derived his intellectual decisiveness from 
his consistent endeavour to apply the lessons 
enshrined in philosophy and literature to the 
practical problems of life. Both men regarded 
subjectivism as dangerous escapism and tried to stem 
its tide. 

Lichtenberg' s many different ventures into 
publishing were directed by the desire to counteract 
diffuse and wishful thinking with empiricism, and his 
wish to publicize Johnson's work in Germany appears 
as part of this strategy. In 1782 he prepared for 
the Gottingische Magazin , of which he was founder and 
main editor, a report on Pope's life and works, which 
he had translated and adapted from Johnson's Lives of 
the English Poets . 35 He promised a sequel on Pope's 
characteristics as an author at the end of the 
article, and planned to bring further lives of 
English poets from Johnson to the attention of his 
readers. Nothing came of this, as the magazine ceased 
publication in 1784. Lichtenberg therefore suggested 
that Dieterich should print the whole edition of 
Johnson's English poets. 36 Lichtenberg spent much 

35 Georg Christoph Lichtenberg, Vermischte 
Schriften. Vol. V. Ed. by Lichtenberg ' s Sons 
(Gottingen: Dieterichsche Buchhandlung, 1844), pp. 
33-70. (Rpt. from Gottingisches Magazin , Part 3, 
No.l, 1782). 

36 Briefwechsel , Vol. II, Nos. 1044 and 1097. 


time on this enterprise and also took over the final 
revision. It proved, however, unprofitable and 
Dieterich abandoned the ambitious venture after only 
two volumes. 37 Though Lichtenberg was alert to 
Johnson's occasional limitations and sometimes 
deviated from his judgements, especially in regard to 
Fielding (J 807) , he considered the Lives of the 
Poets as a masterpiece in which the fusion of life 
and literature was achieved on the basis of the 
Horatian precept of educating while entertaining. 

Horace recommends this mixture of the useful 
and the pleasant in his Ars Poetica which was much 
consulted by the literary critics of the 
Enlightenment. Johnson discussed these poetic 
instructions in depth and guoted freguently from 
them. 38 Ars Poetica . also known as the Epistle to 
the Pisos r is several times evoked by Bonaventura and 
guoted by Kreuzgang, the protagonist of the 
Nicfhtwatches (p. 195) , who also aspires to the 
Horatian ideal "to unite the useful with the 
pleasurable" (p. 219) . Even in his scientific 

37 Personal information from Frau Elisabeth 
Willnat, Gottingen, from an unpublished dissertation 
on Dieterich ' s Publishing House. 

38 James Boswell, Life of Johnson (1791) . Ed. R. 
W. Chapmann (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1980) , 
pp. 120, 140, 158, 360, 443, 693, 771-74, 939, 1034, 
1093 . 


writing Lichtenberg adhered to this maxim to such a 

degree that his entertainingly presented ideas were 

widely disseminated among the general public, but 

were not always taken seriously by specialists. He 

owned Horace's works in several editions in Latin and 

in English, including the much admired Baskerville 

edition of 1762, plus a German translation of a Dutch 

work on Ouintus Horatius Flaccus as Citizen of Rome f 

(Nos. 1516-22). 

Lichtenberg owned, and frequently consulted, 

Johnson's Dictionary of the English Language , in the 

London edition of 1773 (No. 1460) . Several of his 

notes attest to exceptional interest in the meaning 

of words, and to his exceptional command of the 

English language. For example: 

In Johnson's Dictionary the words: Predilection, 
respectable, descriptive, sulky, mimetick, 
isolated, inimical, decompose have been omitted 
by oversight. (J 83 6) 

Similar concern is shown in J 811 and in J 822, and 

he noted that "in the word abandon in Johnson's great 

Dictionary credulity should have been used instead of 

cruelty" (J 1041) . Besides two different editions of 

Johnson's Lives of the Poets , Lichtenberg also owned 

a separate edition of the Life of Savage — a 

celebrated eighteenth-century account of the 

sufferings of a poor poet — and the Milton volume of 


Dieterich's abortive Johnson series which Lichtenberg 
had edited himself (Nos. 1651-53, 1659). 

The works catalogued in the Bibl iotheca 
Lichtenberqiana indicate thorough and solid reading 
habits. In conjunction with the notes and remarks in 
letters, the contents of the library demonstrate that 
Lichtenberg investigated the topics which 
particularly concerned him in considerable depth. 
Though "the difficulty of access to the large and 
varied canon of his writings," is as formidable in 
the case of Johnson 39 as it is for Lichtenberg, the 
thoughts and methods of both authors are 
exceptionally well documented: for Lichtenberg, 
through the self -testimony of his notebooks and in 
lesser measure through his correspondence; for 
Johnson, through the meticulous preservation of his 
conversations by James Boswell (1740-1795). The 
minutiae which these testimonies contain were a 
deliberate contribution to the "science of man," 
acute observations towards a true and rounded concept 
of human personality. 

Boswell 's attention to seeming trivia accords 
with the opinion of Johnson, whom he reports as 
having said: "The great thing to be recorded ... is 

3 Samuel Johnson . Ed. Donald Green (Oxford: 
Oxford University Press) , 1984. Introduction, p. xii. 


the state of your own mind; and you should write down 
everything that you remember, for you cannot judge at 
first what is good or bad; and write immediately 
while the impression is fresh, for it will not be the 
same afterwards . " 4 

To this principle Lichtenberg adhered all 
through his adult life, and to the same end: to study 
the human condition and the workings of the mind. He 
also shared Johnson's conviction that the key to 
human behaviour can be found anywhere, in common life 
as well as in noteworthy historic events. He is not 
joking when he attributes his own considerable 
psychological understanding to observations at 
weddings, christenings and university feasts (E 189) 
and he held that family life mirrors great political 
incidents with its miniature wars and peace treaties, 
resolutions, reforms and power struggles (L 106) . 

Like many of Lichtenberg' s ideas, which are 
crowded together in his notebooks without context, 
introduction or follow-up, this suggestion might 
appear as the whimsical inspiration of the moment. 
It does, however, echo one of Johnson's Rambler 
essays, which states that "no nation omits to record 
the actions of their ancestors, however bloody, 

Boswell, e.g. pp. 25, 868, 997, 1013, 1023, 
1088; p. 513. 


savage and rapacious" and then goes on to claim: "The 
same disposition, as different opportunities call it 
forth, discovers itself in great or little things." 
Johnson therefore offers to relate "the history and 
antiquities of the several garrets" in which The 
Rambler has resided. 41 He ends with the "observation 
of Juvenal, that a single house will show whatever is 
done or suffered in the world," thus pointing back to 
a source which was particularly popular with the 
English eighteeenth-century satirists, Lichtenberg 
included (Nos. 1728-29) . For Bonaventura, too, the 
microcosm of common or particular events represents 
the world (p. 143) . 

Johnson and Lichtenberg share a heritage of 
classical satire; among its major themes are 
madness, suicide, superstitions and dreams. These 
reflect general trends in a time which based its 
epistemology on the study of classical authors. 
Nevertheless, the serious intensity with which 
Johnson and Lichtenberg approached these darker 
problems was exceptional, and several parallelisms 
show that Lichtenberg based some of his thoughts on 
Johnson's work. 

* x Samuel Johnson , pp. 239-42, p. 239, Rambler . 
No. 161, Tuesday, October 1, 1751, "A Rooming-House 
Chronicle. " 


In the Socratic effort to "know thyself" 
Lichtenberg habitually dissected and rationalized 
his dreams, and he tells how once in a dream he 
related an incident to someone else, who then 
reminded him of a detail he had entirely forgotten. 
How, he asked himself, could that happen, as it was 
his dream, and he himself must therefore have 
reproduced everything in it (L 587) . Similarly, 
Johnson "related, that he had once in a dream a 
contest of wit with some other person, and that he 
was very much mortified by imagining that his 
opponent had the better of him." On reflection, 
however, he found that the wit of this supposed 
antagonist by "whose superiority" he felt himself 
depressed, was also furnished by himself. 42 

Besides literary themes the two men also shared 
many acguaintances, as Lichtenberg moved partly in 
the circles which Johnson frequented. He kept 
modestly quiet about most of his social experiences 
in London, but recorded that he dined with General 
Paoli. 43 As he refers to Boswell's description of 
him (E 269) , he must have been familiar with 
Boswell's Account of Corsica (1768), though it was 

42 Boswell, p. 1069. 

43 Ed. Gumbert, Lichtenberg in England , Vol. I, 
p. 92, March 15, 1775. 


not in his library. Neither did he own Johnson's 
Journey to the Western Islands (1775) or Boswell's 
Journal of a Tour to the Hebrides (1785) , though his 
own visit to the Isle of Heligoland in 1773 recalls 
Johnson's celebrated excursion, and was not less 
trend-setting. 44 Interest in the Hebrides was also 
kindled by the Ossianic controversies, which aroused 
even stronger passions in Germany than in England, as 
enthusiasm for Ossian had stimulated "a lyric genre 
which flourished for a brief time under the name of 
'bardic' poetry." 45 

Though Lichtenberg emphatically opposed these 
effusions, he refrained from taking sides in the 
Ossian guestion, possibly because several writers he 
valued, like Gerstenberg, von Haller and especially 
his friend Eschenburg, were filled with admiration 
for McPherson's Celtic imitations, the more so as the 
ancient Celts were freely equated with the Germanic 
tribes. Lichtenberg himself was interested in the 
religious aspects of Ossian' s songs, as they seemed 
to him an uncanny anticipation of modern thoughts on 
God and nature. He even had agreed to get some 

44 Wolfgang Promies. "Der Deutschen Bade- 
Meister: Georg Christoph Lichtenberg und die 
Wirkungen aufgeklarter Schriften." Photorin . IV, 
1981, pp. 1-15 (pp. 2-3). 

45 Price, English Literature in Germany , p. 126. 


additional Ossianic poems printed, which were offered 
to him as authentic by Edmund de Harold. 46 Probably 
he soon identified them as forgeries, because nothing 
came of the plan. He also noted that there was no 
mention of the wolf in Ossian, an observation which 
Boswell likewise records. Additionally he mentions 
that the cock occurs, though introduced into Europe 
much later. Johnson regarded Ossian as a fraud, 
because McPherson could not show him any original 
manuscripts. His verdict that "a man might write 
such stuff for ever, if he would abandon his mind to 
it" 47 sums up Lichtenberg's often voiced opinion on 
German neo-bardic poetry. 

Ossian 7 s supposed father was the legendary 
Fingal, and his famous cave on the Scottish island 
Staffa is mentioned by Kreuzgang as one of the 
desirable places to which a beggar might gain 
entrance (p. 217) . Johnson and Boswell came close to 
it, but did not include Staffa in their itinerary. 
It had, however, been visited in the previous year by 

46 Ed. Joost, Briefwechsel . Vol. II, No. 1097. 

47 Boswell, p. 615, probably emanating from 
Thomas Percy; p. 1207. 


Sir Joseph Banks (1743-1820) whose description first 
drew attention to this wonder of nature. 48 

Lichtenberg was introduced to Sir Joseph Banks 
and his companion on the journey round the world with 
Captain Cook, Dr. Daniel Solander (1730-1781) , in 
March 1775, and they in turn acquainted him with 
Omai, the native from Tahiti who frequented London 
society until he returned to his native island with 
Captain Cook on his third and last voyage. 49 All 
three were also acquainted with Johnson and 
Boswell. 50 Sir Joseph Banks joined Johnson's 
Literary Club in 1778, 51 and he was President of the 
Royal Society when Lichtenberg was admitted. Such 

48 Significantly Kreuzgang talks of a "free pass 
to nature," but the three places he mentions are all 
distinguished by literary and philosophical 
connections. His experience of nature is thus in the 
tradition of the Enlightenment: evocative of 
incidents and literary precedent. This attitude is 
also exemplified by Johnson and Boswell, who on their 
Scottish tour expressed their responses to nature by 
quoting passages from literature, especially from 
Shakespeare . 

49 Mautner, Lichtenberg. Geschichte seines 
Geistes, p. 132. 

50 Cf. Johnson's opinions on Omai, Boswell, p. 
723, April 1776. Lichtenberg had met him at a dinner 
given by Sir John Pringle, President of the Royal 
Society and personal physician to the Queen, who had 
acted as an intermediary between him and Lichtenberg; 
see Letter to Ernst Gottfried Baldinger, 10th January 
1775, ed. Joost, Briefwechsel , Vol. I, No. 269, pp. 

51 Boswell, p. 1005: "Mr. Banks desires to be 
admitted; he will be a very honourable accession." 


connections intensified Lichtenberg' s interest in 
Johnson, which is reflected in his reading in the 
winter 1789/90 of Sir John Hawkins' Life of Samuel 
Johnson . 52 He also read Mrs. Thrale-Piozzi's 
Anecdotes (17 86) on Johnson, shortly after he 
finished with Boswell 's Life . probably because 
Boswell discusses Mrs. Thrale and her work so 
frequently. Boswell also comments on the affair of 
the hapless Rev. Dr. W. Dodd, who was hanged in 1777 
for embezzlement. Johnson's unsuccessful 

championship of his case turned it into a cause 
celebre to which Lichtenberg referred in his article 
"Uber Physiognomik" (1778). 53 Lichtenberg's interest 
in Soame Jenyns' View of the Internal Evidence of the 
Christian Religion (No. 1325) , may also be due to 
Johnson who reviewed this work in: "A Free Inquiry 
into the Nature and Origin of Evil." (1757). Many of 
Johnson's ideas on life and afterlife, which are 
otherwise widely diffused in his writings in the form 
of general maxims and observations, are distilled in 
this essay. Jenyns himself offers little more than a 
summary of current thoughts, including the concept of 
the universe as a system of beings descending by 

52 See Promies, Vol. I, notebook entries 
beginning with J 199. 

53 Promies, Vol. Ill, pp. 256-95, p. 272, also F 



insensible degrees, from infinite perfection to 
absolute nothing, with man on probabtion to find a 
place commesurate with his achievements. 

Such ideas go back to antiguity, especially to 
Pythagoras, but in the eighteenth century they had 
been reactivated through contact with the East. Hence 
Johnson speaks of the "Arabian scale of existence." 
He confesses to have often considered such a system 
himself, "but always left the inguiry in doubt and 
uncertainty." 54 Lichtenberg held similar views. 
Thoughts on a celestial hierarchy surface in his 
notes over many years, and in D 412, for instance, he 

I can hardly believe that it will be possible to 
prove that we are the work of a highest being, 
and not have rather been assembled by a very 
imperfect one to while away the time. 

This tormenting impossibility of arriving at a 

definitive conclusion becomes a central guest for 

Kreuzgang, who resembles Johnson and Lichtenberg also 

in this, that the search for eternity does not 

deflect his mind from the realities of everyday life. 

Johnson was an active observer and judge of the 

political contentions which stirred his times, and, 

when the controversies with the American colonies 

reached their height, he produced "An Answer to the 

54 Samuel Johnson , pp. 522-43, p. 539; pp. 524-25. 


Resolutions and Address of the American Congress" 
that was intended to calm tempers and support law and 
order: Taxation: No Tyranny (1774) . Lichtenberg 
owned an anonymous answer to it: Taxation Tyranny 
(1775, No. 1123) . According to diverse notes and 
excerpts, Lichtenberg was also a regular reader of 
the Gentleman's Magazine , which Johnson had helped 
"to convert from a rather dreary collection of 
reprints from current newspapers to the prototype of 
the modern 'intellectual 7 journal, designed to inform 
and stimulate the minds of the educated and 
educatable general public." 55 

Johnson's and Lichtenberg' s comprehensive 
knowledge and understanding of the enlightened 
concerns of their time fuelled their passionate 
intellectual preoccupation with the problems of 
progress. They were also farsighted enough to 
recognize human limitations, and this acceptance 
resulted in a strong sense of responsibility towards 
the public. Hence they were both convinced that "the 
only end of writing is to enable the readers better 
to enjoy life or better to endure it." 56 

Even a brief comparison of the contents of 
Lichtenberg 's library with his reading and writing 

55 Samuel Johnson . Introduction, pp. xi-xii. 

56 Samuel Johnson , p. 536. 


shows that his wish to make Johnson more accessible 
to German readers was based on thorough study and an 
exceptionally systematical and comprehensive 
knowledge of eighteenth-century English writers. 
Bonaventura shares this background and has also this 
in common with Lichtenberg, that while his 
inspirations may seem spontaneous and often 
effervescent, closer investigation will prove their 
enlightened and farsighted intent which begins to be 
fully appreciated only in present times. 



Pursuit of English literary influences on the 
Nightwat ches reveals strong parallels to 
Lichtenberg 's reading, his thoughts, interests and 
preferences; Kreuzgang's references to Shakespeare 
demonstrate the same thorough and unusual knowledge 
of the English dramatist's works that distinguished 
Lichtenberg. Kreuzgang, too, values Shakespeare's 
insight into the human condition, and he commands 
Lichtenberg' s exceptional paraphrasing technigues: 
his gift to absorb the best thoughts of others and 
turn them to his own purpose. When Klaus 
Bartenschlager observes of Bonaventura's methods: 
"Shakespeare is not discussed, but integrated into 
the perspective of the narrator," 1 he also describes 
the methods of Lichtenberg. 

Klaus Bartenschlager, "Bonaventuras 
Shakespeare: Zur Bedeutung Shakespeares fur die 
'Nachtwachen' . 11 Grofibritannien und Deutschland . 
Festschrift fur John Bourke (Miinchen: Goldmann, 
1974), pp. 347-71, p. 348. 



Bartenschlager concentrates his investigation 
mainly on the virtuosity with which this integration 
is achieved. As the Shakespearean absorption of the 
Nightwatches surpasses the contemporary German norm 
in intensity and extent, even at a time when 
admiration of Shakespeare was at a peak, 
Bartenschlager treats the Nightwatches in comparative 
isolation. Where he refers to literary context he 
does so in general terms, and restricts himself to 
German literary criticism. Thus he refers to Herder, 
Goethe, Tieck and Schlegel, 2 all of whom, however, 
had evolved their views directly or indirectly from 
the English literary critics who were led and 
stimulated by Dryden into a growing realisation of 
the unusual genius their country had produced. 

John Dryden 's Essay of Dramatic Poesy (1668) 
heralded a shift of focus from Ben Johnson to 
Shakespeare, and based the claim for the latter' s 
superiority on the daring presentation of "mirth 
mixed with tragedy." Acceptance of Dryden ' s views 
was facilitated by his patriotic opinion that the 
English, and foremost Shakespeare, "have invented, 
increased and perfected a more pleasant way of 
writing for the stage, than was ever known to the 

Bartenschlager, p. 348. 


ancients or moderns of any nation, which is tragi- 
comedy. " 3 

Shakespeare is therefore praised as the 
unsurpassed master of mixing serious scenes with 
merry interludes, and to this technigue, which after 
all mirrors the hazards and unpredictable changes of 
life itself, he added the perception that while both 
aspects of the human existence may remain 
irreconcilable, they can nevertheless illuminate each 
other. Dryden sees Shakespeare as "the man who of 
all modern, and perhaps ancient poets, had the 
largest and most comprehensive soul." 4 The renewed 
interest in Shakespeare's plays which resulted from 
Dryden's praise led to various new editions, notably 
those of Pope (1725) and Johnson (1765) . 

Pope proclaimed that 

if ever any Author deserved the name of an 
Original . it was Shakespeare; his poetry was 
Inspiration indeed: he is not so much an 
Imitator, as an Instrument, of Nature; and 'tis 
not so just to say that he speaks from her, as 
that she speaks thro' him. 

His Characters are so much Nature her self, 
that 'tis a sort of injury to call them by so 
distant a name as Copies of her... every single 

Hazard Adams, Critical Theory since Plato (New 
York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1971) , John Dryden, 
"An Essay of Dramatic Poesy," pp. 228-257, p. 244. 

4 Ed. Adams, "An Essay of Dramatic Poesy," p. 247. 


character in Shakespear is as much an 
Individual, as those in Life itself." 5 

Kreuzgang's appreciation of Shakespeare is 
similar. Klaus Bartenschlager sees it as part of the 
controversy over creating versus imitating, a 
persistent late eighteenth-century theme in 
aesthetics which, in his view, for Bonaventura's 
generation was insolubly linked with Herder's 
exhortation of Shakespeare's genius. 6 

Lawrence Marsden Price found in Herder's essay 
"echoes of Pope, Warburton, Johnson, and Young, who 
had extolled Shakespeare's knowledge of the human 
soul or even called him creator," and he suggests 
that "for verbal parallels couched in like effusive 
tones we must turn to Henry Home." With all these 
authors, including Herder, Lichtenberg was guite 
familiar. 7 He also contributed actively to the 

D Poetry and Prose of Alexander Pope. Sel. and 

intr. Aubrey Williams (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 

1969), "Preface to the Works of Shakespeare," pp. 
460-472, pp. 460-61. 

6 Bartenschlager, p. 348. 

7 Price, English Literature in Germany , p. 246. 
Lichtenberg owned: Complete Works of Alexander Pope, 
with his last correction. Together with the notes of 
William Warburton . London 1764, 6 vols. Bibliotheca 
Lichtenbergiana , No. 1662; a German prose translation 
of Warburton 's Pope edition by Johann Jacob Dusch, 
1784, No. 1663; a German translation of Henry Home's 
Elements of Criticism (1762) in 3 vols., Leipzig 
1763-66, No. 1316; Johann Gottfried Herder Briefe zur 
Beforderung der Humanitat . Riga 1793 (No. 1311) , and 
Ursachen des gesunkenen Geschmacks bei den 


reception of Shakespeare's works in Germany, for he 
valued the Elizabethan poet above all as an inspired 
interpreter of human nature, and held him up as an 
example to young writers, because his characters were 
not copied from literature but from life, and thus of 
permanent and general value. With this validity in 
mind he himself used Shakespeare's works as the ideal 
against which to test thoughts and emotions. He had 
already integrated Hamlet into his way of thinking 
when he wrote on December 2nd 1770, in one of the 
suicidal moods which tempted him throughout his adult 

Luckily under the circumstances I still have a 
good conscience, otherwise I would already have 
gone, the sooner the better to the rest, from 
which Hamlet shrank because of the dreams which 
he feared would disturb it. (B 338) 

Long before Wilhelm Meister was published (1787-88), 

from which the German romantics took their cue, 

Hamlet had already become part of his way of 


A strong influence on Lichtenberg's sense of 
Shakespeare was Johnson's "Preface to Shakespeare," 
first published in 1765 in Johnson's eight-volume 
edition of Shakespeare's plays. This essay follows 

verschiedenen Volkern. da er gebluhet . Berlin 1775 
(No. 1775) and Vom Erkennen und Empfinden der 
menschlichen Seele. Bemerkungen und Traume . Riga 
1788, a work on dreams and the soul, (NO. 1313). 


Pope in criticism of various details and methods in 
Shakespeare's works. Johnson confirms and enlarges 
Dryden's patriotic views regarding the serio-comic 
genre, and he declares Shakespeare to be "above all 
writers, at least above all modern writers, the poet 
of nature; the poet that holds up to his readers a 
faithful mirror of manners and of life." Nature 
eguates to human nature, as it does throughout the 
enlightenment, and Johnson admires "practical axioms 
and domestic wisdom" and believes "that from his 
works may be collected a system of civil and 
economical prudence." Johnson was convinced that: 
"Nothing can please many and please long, but just 
representations of general nature." Shakespeare's 
ability to create characters "which are the genuine 
progeny of common humanity," revealed him therefore 
as a poet in the original sense of the word, a 
maker. 8 

When he talks of Ophelia, Kreuzgang evaluates 
Shakespeare in the same terms. After "the mighty 
hand of Shakespeare, that second creator, had seized 
her violently," he witnesses at first with critical 
and later with passionate fascination a 

Ed. Adams, "Preface to Shakespeare", pp. 329- 
336, p. 330. 


"transformation of the real into a poetic person" 
(p. 199) . 

Johnson's "Preface to Shakespeare" became a 
touchstone of English literary criticism. It was not 
much noted in Germany, 9 but it left traces in 
Lichtenberg's satirical attacks on literary and 
intellectual abuses. The best known of these, "On 
Physiognomy against the Physiognomists" (1778) , is 
preceded by a guotation from Henry V (Act 11,2) and 
he uses also various examples from Antony and 
Cleopatra . 10 plays which Johnson had singled out in 
his "Preface." 

Never content with mere citation, Lichtenberg 
merges comments from both works to express his own 
praise of Shakespeare, "who was able to combine for 
his purpose distant concepts, which perhaps never 
before had met in a human mind, and who could call 

y In the 69. Part of the Hamburgische 
Dramaturgie . which was published in December 1767, 
Lessing does not mention Johnson by name, but 
attributes to "one of our most recent writers" the 
view that Shakespeare has been censured for his 
tragi-comic vein, though this should instead be 
regarded as a virtue, as it imitates the natural 
process of human existence. Besides the English 
claimes for priority in this field — championed by 
Dryden and Johnson — Lessing acknowledges the strong 
Spanish influences on the mixed genre, and draws 
especial attention to Lope de Vega's satiric New Art 
of Comedy Writing . Lessings samtliche Schriften , Vol. 
X, pp. 77-78. 

1U Promies, Vol. Ill, "uber Physiognomik; wider 
die Physiognomen. " pp. 256-95, pp. 256, 279, 281. 


the world an and finally the stage a wooden 0," a 
view which equates the world with nothing. 11 

Lichtenberg demonstrates here a technique which 
Bartenschlager finds especially characteristic for 
Bonaventura, 12 and also shows his thorough 
familiarity with a tradition which is not only 
important to Shakespeare's imagery, but is an 
integral part of tragi-comic writing, especially of 
menippean satires from Lucian onwards. 13 

11 Promies, Vol. Ill, p. 279. Lichtenberg 
amalgamated Antony and Cleopatra , V, 2: "His face was 
as the heavens; and therein stuck/ A sun and moon, 
which kept their course, and lighted/ The little 0, 
the earth," and Henry V . Chorus, I: "can this cockpit 
hold/ The vasty fields of France? or may we cram/ 
Within this wooden the very casques/ That did 
affright the air at Agincourt?" 

12 Bartenschlager, p. 359: "Das bisher Gesagte 
zeigt den strengen Pe r s pekt i v i smu s des 
Nachtwachendichters in der Wahl seiner Shakespeare- 
Motive und ihre kunstvolle Integration in die 
Weltsicht des Prot agon i s ten , durch Auswahl, 
Teilidentif izierung, Kontrastierung, Parodie und 
originelle Umwandlungen verschiedener Art." 

13 Lucian. " Icaromenippus" in Towards 
Excellence . Ed. Vincent Milosevich (New York: 
Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1973), e.g. p. 23: "some 
relieve the Gods of all care, as we relieve the 
superannuated of their civic duties; in fact, they 
treat them exactly like supernumeraries on the 
stage;" p. 27: "Well, friend, such are the earthly 
dancers; the life of man is just such a discordant 
performance; not only are the voices jangled, but the 
steps are not uniform, the motions not concerted, the 
objectives not agreeed upon — until the impresario 
dismisses them one by one from the stage, with a "not 
wanted;" p. 32: "their model is the tragic actor, 
from whom if you strip off the mask and the gold- 
spangled robe, there is nothing left but a paltry 
fellow hired for a few shillings to play a part." 


When Kreuzgang speaks of "Cleopatra's flower 
basket, among the roses of which the poisonous snake 
lay in wait" (p. 69) , he refers to the same scene in 
Antony and Cleopatra from which Lichtenberg took the 
simile of life, seen as an empty stage. By filling 
the basket of figs with flowers, 14 Bonaventura 
moulds the metaphor closer to his own purpose and to 
the German environment in which Kreuzgang operates. 

Just before the entrance of the "rural fellow" — 
one of Shakespeare's tragic clowns — Cleopatra has 
envisaged her fate in captivity as that of an 
"Egyptian puppet," and she fears that there "the 
quick comedians extemporarily will stage us." The 
clown delivers the fatal basket with a melancholy 
discourse on worms and death, the gods and the devil. 
The fifth act of Antony and Cleopatra abounds in the 
key words which permeate the Niqhtwatches . 

Bartenschlager regards as "the sum of the plays 
of which Kreuzgang takes note: Hamlet , Lear , Macbeth , 
with a reference to the Tempest and possibly also to 
Troilus and Cressida ." All are plays which deal with 
primary concerns of the nightwatchman, and the first 

Act V, Sc. II: Guard: "Here is a rural 
fellow ... he brings you figs." 


three made a lasting impression on Lichtenberg, while 
he was in England. 15 

The allusions to the Tempest and to Troilus and 
Cressida occur when Kreuzgang compares the antigue 
ideal of beauty with an ugly reality, exemplified by 
Caliban and Thersites (p. 195) . Thersites in Troilus 
and Cressida is, according to Robert C. Elliot, 
"unguestionably the greatest master of scurrilous 
abuse among characters of this type" in Shakespeare; 
a pharmakos who suffers for the evils of the 
community; a provoker, a "railer who is privileged to 
abuse whom he will;" a figure with general traits for 
which Thersites has been metonymic since Homer. 16 
Kreuzgang with his sarcastic despair is one of his 

The mocking and bitter aspects of Shakespeare's 
fools, which the acerbic Thersites represents, occupy 
the center stage in Timon of Athens . The Greek 
satirist Lucian of Samosata had devoted one of his 
Dialogues to Timon, and Robert C. Elliot sees 
Shakespeare approach closest to satire in this play. 
He counts Shakespeare's Timon with Moliere's Alceste 

15 Bartenschlager , p. 359; Ed. Gumbert, 
Lichtenberg in England . Vol. II, p. 274. 

16 Robert C. Elliot, The Power of Satire: Magic. 
Ritual . Art (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 
1960) , pp. 136-39. 


and Swift's Gulliver among "the great misanthropes of 
literature: a satirist satirized, with "full 
cognizance of the dreadful power of the extreme." 
Humour, though much of it bitter and even invective, 
softens the impact of human limitations and 
imperfections in this black comedy. Yet "the 
denunciation of man is frightfully powerful and it 
stands. " 17 

This basic attitude is not the only reminiscence 
of Timon in the Nightwatches . A central symbol in 
Timon is "eating roots," which epitomizes reliance on 
nature rather than on the fickleness of man. Already 
in Act I, Sc. II Apemantus, a churlish philosopher 
and a more stoic double or alter ego of Timon, 
declares at the end of an apostrophe to the immortal 
gods: "Rich men sin, and I eat root." Moderation, 
frugality and self-sufficiency are the virtues which 
he wants to promote by this symbolic action. Timon 
learns to aspire to these virtues only in Act IV, 
when he has lost his immense riches and with them his 
sycophantic friends, and decides to retreat into the 
wilderness of self-imposed exile. Cursing the earth, 
asking for universal discord by imploring that 
"twinned brothers of one womb" should be set against 
each other through different fortunes, (an event of 

17 Elliot, p. 167. 


which the Fourth and Fifth Nightwatches tell) , he 

finally calls out "Earth, yield me roots" (Act IV, 

Sc. Ill) . While he digs he finds a treasure of gold, 

but finally recognizing and despising its potential 

for evil he casts it aside and persists in looking 

for roots. When thieves beset him, he advises them: 

"Why should you want? Behold the earth hath roots." 

"That nature, being sick of man's unkindness/ 

Should yet be hungry!" he exclaims and then 

apostrophises nature in the words which Kreuzgang 

uses repeatedly: "Common Mother thou," and he 

implores nature to 

yield him, who all thy human sons doth hate 
From forth thy plenteous bosom one poor root. 

(Act IV, Sc. Ill) 

Equivalent events occur in the Fifteenth 

Nightwatch. After one of his misanthropic outbursts 

of "aggravated hatred for all the men of reason" (p. 

217) Kreuzgang calls himself, like Timon, a beggar 

and rejoices that "the earth still had roots in her 

lap which she did not deny," and calls her "this 

ancient mother" (p. 219) . The root he digs out 

constitutes the only sustenance of which he partakes 

during a narration abounding in metaphors of eating 

and digestion. Further indication of the symbolic 

nature of this meagre meal is a preceding reference 

to Horace's advice in the letter to the Piso Family 


"to unite the useful with the pleasurable", for it 
breaks the illusion of a romantic enjoyment of nature 
by drawing attention to deliberate artistic devices. 

Like the Nightwatches , Timon of Athens ends on a 
note of despair. Timon dies, declaring 
oxymoronically, and with significance for the last 
words in the Nightwatches : "My long sickness of 
health and living now begins to mend and nothing 
brings me all things." This "nothing," reminiscent of 
Kreuzgang's final words, is one of the many uses of 
the word in Shakespeare. 

Timon promises that his gravestone will be an 

oracle to those who survive him (Act V, Sc. I) . After 

some difficulties in deciphering the words, his 

epitaph is finally found to declare 

Here lies a wretched corse, of wretched soul 


Seek not my name; a plague consume the wicked 

caitiffs left! 
Here lie I, Timon; who alive all living men did 


Pass by and curse thy fill; but pass and stay 

not here thy gait. 
(Act V, c. Ill) 

Elliot interprets "Timon's last words from out 

the nothingness he coveted" as a snarl. 18 They 

contain, however, several indications which leave 

room for optimism: body and soul are taken as 

separable and only temporarily united entities, and 

18 Elliot, p. 160. 


death is therefore bereft of finality; and the twice 
repeated exhortation "pass" implies that a better 
place can be reached by those who are prepared to 
move on. Shakespeare sows these seeds of hope almost 
imperceptibly and they can be easily cast aside or 
overlooked, and Bonaventura hides his clues with 
similar care. 

The Niqhtwatches also tell of hidden treasure, 
but there is a change of emphasis from Timon: instead 
of sterile metal a young child is found, unencumbered 
by any worldly possessions but "already a quite 
complete citizen of the world" (p. 61) . Goethe's 
ballad Per Schatzgraber (1798) a genie similiarly 
conveyed the message that life and active endeavour, 
not gold, constitute real riches. Bonaventura does 
not deliver such advice; he relies on hints and 
implications, and expects the reader to find a 
meaningful pattern in them, as he will have to do in 
reality, if he desires life to make sense. 19 

The Fifth Nightwatch ends with Timon 's wish, 
that two "brothers of one womb" should be divided by 
strife and scorn each other (Act IV, Sc. Ill) . Their 

The Christian child-symbol was secularized by 
the romantics, as epitomized in the painting of 
Philipp Otto Runge (1777-1810): Per Moraen (1805). 
Kreuzgang's symbolic conception during Christmas 
night affirms the allegorical character of his family 


catastrophe compresses in a few paragraphs the 

complicated intrigues of Othello , with Iago's 

fabrication and manipulation of misleading evidence, 

and the desperate regret of the husband, who 

understands the truth too late and follows the murder 

of an innocent wife with suicide. The melodramatic 

aspects of this scenario are subordinated to the 

human paradox that loss or threatened loss 

intensifies the wish to possess, and enhances what is 

otherwise not valued enough. Bonaventura writes: 

Ponce only awoke when she died, and now for 
the first time he seemed to love, because he had 
lost love, and to feel a loving heart so as to 
pierce it through, (p. 97) 

The gory end is left to the imagination of the 

reader: "Silently he was remarried with Ines," and 

the full extent of the tragedy is merely mirrored in 

the survivor's reaction: "Don Juan stood mute and 

insane among the dead." 

The opinion that life attains its value through 

the fear of death was shared by Lichtenberg with 

Shakespeare and recurs in the Nightwatches . Among 

his first notebook entries Lichtenberg claimed: "To 

make us more receptive to our good luck when it is 

losing some of its lustre we have to imagine that it 

has been lost and that we had received it only this 

very moment" (A 72) . This thought he presented later 


in a polished and often quoted aphorism: "Lasting 

luck looses lustre merely by its length" (F 6) . 

In Much Ado About Nothing it is the Friar, the 

exponent of moderation and good sense, who offers 

this insight: 

That what we have we prize not to the worth 
While we enjoy it; but being lack'd and lost, 
Why, then we rack the value, then we find 
The virtue that possession would not show us 
While it was ours. (Act IV, Sc. I) 

This bitter comedy presents tragic themes, but 

transposes them into a key that allows a lighthearted 

final solution, as if to demonstrate the arbitrary 

fickleness of life. While in Othello Shakespeare 

dispenses with comic relief, he varies the theme with 

the Iago-like traitor Don John in Much Ado About 

Nothing . which has tomb scenes reminiscent of Romeo 

and Juliet , misunderstandings and pretended death, 

and hovers dangerously close to real tragedy. The 

constant masking and unmasking creates no 

lighthearted or festive spirit, but rather an 

atmosphere of uncertainty where happiness or horror 

can gain the upper hand at any moment, and may result 

in bliss or destruction according to the whim of 

circumstances. Bitter love and "enraged affection" 

(Act II, Sc. Ill) add to the ambivalence as they do in 

Kreuzgang's intense and unromantic wooing. 


The play also contains a group of nightwatchmen 
led by their constable Dogberry, whose blundering 
ignorance mingles with sound instinct, and 
paradoxically solves enigmas which confound shrewder 
minds. His instructions foreshadow some of the 
decisions Kreuzgang takes on his nightly rounds, as 
for instance, when Dogberry counsels: "If you meet a 
thief, you may suspect him, by virtue of your office, 
to be no true man; and, for such kind of men, the 
less you meddle or make with them, why, the more is 
for your honesty" (Act III, Sc. Ill) . When Kreuzgang 
makes a similar decision he seems as whimsical and 
ineffective as Dogberry, but he too, like 
Shakespeare, is commenting on the helplessness of 
well-meaning people faced with the injustice of this 

Dogberry's conclusions are distilled from 
experience, as well as from his own peculiar logic 
and thus he leaves his men with the exhortation: "The 
watch ought to offend no man; and it is an offence to 
stay a man against his will." The men respond by 
deciding to "sit here upon the church-bench till two, 
and then all to bed," an example followed by 
Kreuzgang. "Among the favorite places in which I am 
accustomed to stop during my nightwatches , " he 


reports, "belongs the ledge in the old Gothic 
cathedral" (p. 59). 

On his second visit to England, Lichtenberg 
recorded that he had seen Much Ado About Nothing on 
December 10th, 1774, with the actor John Lee in the 
lead. Less than a year later, on November 7th, 1775, 
he noted that he had seen Garrick as Benedick for the 
seventh time. He had been to Othello during his 
first and shorter stay in England, and when he came 
to London next in 1774/75 he saw King Lear , Macbeth , 
and Hamlet repeatedly. 20 

The fame of London theatrical life, and in 
particular of its most celebrated actor, David 
Garrick (1717-79), had spread to Germany, and 
visitors were eager to bring back news of his 
outstanding performances. On his second visit to 
England, Lichtenberg was able to see the admired 
actor, now very near the end of his career, in 
several of his most famous roles, and on October 
15th, 1775, he was introduced to him by the favorite 
page of his host in London, the King. Garrick paid 

zv Ed. Gumbert, Lichtenberg in England . Vol. II, 
pp. 58, 196, and 274. 


him the compliment to declare that he had never heard 
a foreigner speak so free of accent. 2 ^ 

Admiration for Garrick's brilliance led 
Lichtenberg to analyse not only the craft by which he 
achieved his effects on the stage, but also the roles 
in which he starred. As Garrick specialised in 
expressing even minute and detailed changes in human 
thoughts and motivation, Hamlet became the part with 
which he was most identified. Lichtenberg saw him 
twice in this character. When his friend in 
Gottingen, the Anglophile Christian Heinrich Boie 
(1744-1806) , asked for an account of this experience, 
Lichtenberg produced a penetrating analysis of 
Garrick's craft, and centered his report on the 
Hamlet performance. 

Boie was an influential critic himself, and the 
editor of the journal Deutsches Museum , which 
contributed much to the formation of German public 
opinion in literary matters. Altogether Lichtenberg 
wrote three letters for his friend, and in his usual 
thorough manner not only described the actor for whom 
the readers had indicated so much interest, but also 
the plays in which he excelled and even the whole 

21 Ed. Joost, Briefwechsel , Vol. I, p. 569, 
Letter No. 289 to Johann Andreas Schernhagen, Oct. 
16, 1775. 


English theatrical scene, as the background which 
made his perfection possible. 

To gain a better understanding of the reasons 
for Garrick 's outstanding success, Lichtenberg also 
went to watch the actor Henderson as Hamlet. 22 The 
letters show passionate interest in the plays, and 
demonstrate the importance of Garrick for the growth 
of general interest in Shakespeare. 23 The precise 
and almost cinematic descriptions are the best record 
of Garrick' s acting techniques which has ever come to 
light. 24 

The influence of Hamlet on German literature 
became considerable, especially after Goethe 
integrated the role into the educational scheme of 
his Bildungsroman , Wilhelm Meister . on which he 
started work after Lichtenberg' s letters appeared in 
the Deutsches Museum . Goethe's ideas on Hamlet, and 
the stage direction which Wilhelm Meister envisages 

^ Ed. Joost, Briefwechsel . Vol. I, p. 802, 
Letter No. 475. 

23 Lichtenberg' s Visits to England As Described 
in his Letters and Diaries . Tr. and annot. Margaret 
L. Mare and W. H. Quarrell. Oxford Studies in Modern 
Languages and Literature (1938; New York: Benjamin 
Blom, 1969) . 

24 George W. Stone, Jr. and George M. Kahrl, 
David Garrick. A Critical Biography (Southern 
Illinois University Press, 1979), p. 485. 


for the part, 25 are so consistent with Lichtenberg's 
report in the Second Letter that Goethe's views must 
have been influenced either by Lichtenberg or else by 
other accounts of Garrick's acting. 

Goethe's discourse on Hamlet in Wilhelm Meister 
aroused much enthusiasm for the play in Germany and 
exerted strong influence on romantic writers. 
Wilhelm Meister is therefore mentioned by Klaus 
Bartenschlager as a source of inspiration for the 
Nightwatches . Though Bartenschlager discusses the 
work in a romantic context and arrives at a 
nihilistic interpretation, his overall conclusions 
are surprisingly compatible with the author profile 
of Lichtenberg. He notes particularly Bonaventura's 
exceptional handling of guotes and references, which 
cause him to call the Nightwatches "a literary echo- 
gallery in which references and allusions — with and 
without indication of sources — abound." Accordingly, 
a particular trademark of the author is that 
"Shakespeare is not discussed or merely quoted, but 
integrated into the narrative perspective and 
functionalised creatively for the narration." As an 
example of this technique, the metonymic use of the 

° Goethes Werke . Ed. by command of the Grand 
Duchess Sophia of Saxony (Weimar: Hermann Bohlaus 
Nachfolger, 1899), Vol. XXII, Wilhelm Meister . Book 
IV, Chap, xiii, pp. 73 ff. 


three witches in Macbeth is given; they are evoked to 
describe the fearful apparitions disturbing the 
dignity of the freethinker's death in the Second 
Nightwatch. Bartenschlager comments: "After 
Bonaventura has chosen the analogy of the Macbeth- 
witches, associations seem to crowd in on him." 26 
Lichtenberg was an avid advocate of associative 
thought, and he had studied David Hartley's theories 
in this field in some depth, as they were propagated 
by his friend Joseph Priestley. 27 Talking of himself 
in the third person, Lichtenberg vividly describes 
his habit of thinking in associations: 

Before anyone can even recite the Lord's Prayer 
he can enumerate ten aspects [of a problem], his 
thoughts arrive as if brought to him by a 
hobgoblin. (D 120) 

The full extent of these associations was always 

difficult to comprehend, as Lichtenberg ' s 

comprehensive knowledge exceeded that of most of his 

contemporaries, and it cannot easily be recovered 

. zo Bartenschlager, p. 349, p. 353. 

27 David Hartley (1705-57) attributes the 
evolution of higher concepts to association of basic 
ideas. His Observations on Man, his Frame, his Duty. 
and hi s Expectations was published in 1749, but 
acquired a wider readership when Priestley edited and 
republished it in 1774 as Hartley's theory of the 
human mind on the principle of the association of 

ideas with essays relating to the subject of it . 

After his return from the second sojourn in England, 
Lichtenberg 's Notebook E shows intensive reading of 
this work, E 453 ff. 


now, when so much of the eighteenth-century 
epistemology is no longer generally accessible. But 
where it is possible to follow Lichtenberg's thoughts 
in some detail, their depth is shown to derive from 
the habitual comparing and super- imposing of various 
ideas, and by this method he manipulates common 
concepts to yield multifaceted meaning. Bonaventura 
masters the same technigue, and it enables him to say 
much with an exceptional economy of words. The 
Macbeth-witches are a case in point. 

On his nocturnal rounds Kreuzgang notices "three 
figures . . . creeping like carnival masks along the 
churchyard wall." Notwithstanding a hint of 
carnival, a sinister impression is created by a 
preceding flash of lightning as well as by the 
cemetery location, and the feeling of doom is 
confirmed when "the three had dissolved into the air 
like Macbeth's witches" (p. 39) . Later "the air cast 
bubbles, and the three Macbeth ghosts were suddenly 
visible again, as if the storm wind had whirled them 
there by their pates. The lightning illuminated 
twisted devil's masks and snaky hair and the whole 
hellish contrivance" (pp. 41 and 43) . 

Paucity of invention can hardly account for the 
repetition of a metaphor by an author of Bonavenura's 
complexity, especially as the second passage 


demonstrates that when he uses few words it is not 
for want of finding apt expressions. According to 
Boswell, Johnson said of Shakespeare's witches: "They 
are beings of his own creation; they are a compound 
of malignity and meanness, without any abilities." 28 
These negative gualities characterize exactly the 
evil apparitions in the Nightwatches and their 
mixture of destruct iveness and intellectual 
impotence. To consider such passages in tandem is 
like reading the text through a three-dimensional 
viewer: it yields a depth of perception which remains 
hidden from the unaided eye. Bonaventura uses the 
insights accumulated by Shakespeare and Johnson to 
gain access to an enlarged view of existence, but he 
directs the focus onto new and different aspects. 
This "strong perspectivism" is commended by 
Bartenschlager , who notices that only such 
Shakespearean motifs are used as are compatible with 
Kreuzgang's philosophy. Such emphasis is achieved by 
"selection, partial integration, contrasting, parody 
and various guite original variations." 29 All these 
devices unite to create new issues out of 
Shakespeare's plays in which, however, Hamlet is 
constantly discernible as the dominant voice. 

28 Boswell, p. 1017. 

29 Bartenschlager, p. 359. 


Hermann Michel saw in this leitmotif a borrowing from 
Hamlet . 30 Bonaventura, however, does not lift ideas 
from other authors without thorough scrutiny; and 
during the process he transforms and revises what he 
has found. Consequently Kreuzgang does not quote 
Hamlet . but relives relevant aspects of his 
experience, and thus the references to Shakespeare 
are code-words which can be used to understand 
Kreuzgang 's deeper motives and aims. 

The information that Kreuzgang "was once playing 
Hamlet, as guest role, in a court theatre" (p. 199) 
seems inconsistent with the casual aside that he also 
"limped by nature and did not have the best 
appearance" (p. 53) . The role-playing should 
therefore be accepted on a higher level, where it can 
explain various of the nightwatchman' s rather 
confusing characteristics, such as his intellectual 
and ineffectual reactions to evil, his self-analysing 
despair of the world and of his own indecisive 
helplessness, his dread of the unknown beyond the 
grave, his unsatisfied need to understand what is 
going on around him and what part he should take in 
the proceedings. 

Kreuzgang' s reactions to the ills of the world, 
or rather his lack of them, find their explanation in 

30 Michel, Einleitung, pp. xxviii-xxix. 


Hamlet's words when these are taken in their 
entirety. The few hints and quotations in the text 
of the Niqhtwatches act merely as signposts to the 
fuller information which is contained in 
Shakespeare's works. Like the doomed Prince of 
Denmark, Kreuzgang is basically an idealist with a 
rational, sophisticated mind which perceives with 
uncompromising clarity the wrongs of the world. But 
at the same time his thoughtfulness prevents him from 
attempting any remedial action, for his exceptional 
intelligence recognizes clearly that the results of 
any human enterprise, however well meant and planned, 
are destined to elude human control. Hamlet's 
introspective anguish and emotional conflicts are 
therefore as much a part of the nightwatchman's 
nature as his consequent alienation from his fellow 
men, for they regard as madness what in truth is a 
form of higher, though frustrated and impotent 

Shakespeare furnishes rich examples of those 
types of madness which constitute extreme states of 
the human mind. This dimension of his work is 
highlighted when Kreuzgang is confined to the lunatic 
asylum, for he assumes the pseudonym Hamlet for an 
exchange of letters with the love of his life, who in 
turn has so intensely identified herself with the 


role of Ophelia that she has assumed the name and 
gone mad herself. Unconventional love letters result 
and are presented in the Fourteenth Nightwatch. The 
unexpected change in genre baffled critics until Rita 
Terras found a correspondence between the structure 
°f the Niqhtwatches and Juvenal, who employs the 
epistolary form in his Twelfth and Thirteenth 
Satire. 31 In the tightly structured context of 
Kreuzgang's self-revelations, the parallel should be 
considered as an indication that the letters are to 
be read in a satirical, self-mocking context and that 
the world of Juvenal is never far from the author's 

A connection like this removes the love affair 
with a crazed actress in the lunatic asylum from 
grotesque melodrama to the menippean realm of a 
search for absolute truth and final meaning, while 
the names under which the correspondence is conducted 
alert the reader to interpret Bonavnetura with 
Shakespeare in mind. At the same time this role- 
playing reinforces a leitmotif of the menippean 
tradition, that the world is a stage on which 
everybody has been allotted a part without being 
given a choice in the selection. Shakespeare has 
varied this metaphor again and again; the best known 

31 Rita Terras, p. 25. 


version is delivered by Jaques, the fool in As You 

Like It . which Lichtenberg saw performed in London on 

October 18, 1775: 

All the world's a stage, 
And all men and women merely players; 
They have their exits and entrances; 
And one man in his time plays many parts. 

(Act II, Sc. VII) 

Following this famed statement Jaques traces man's 
transformation from hopeful infant through youth and 
manhood to the "pantaloon, 11 the fool, and finally to 
his "second childishness and mere oblivion/sans 
teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything," thus 
paraphrasing the "nothing" with which Kreuzgang's own 
narration comes to an end. 

The constant allusions to Shakespeare in the 
Niqhtwatches alert the reader to the nature of 
Kreuzgang's predicament. He is not wrestling with 
purely personal problems, but with questions which 
have agitated profound minds throughout history, and 
for which Shakespeare has found the most vivid and 
memorable, and at the same time generally accessible 

Kreuzgang approaches the quest freshly and with 
some new insights, notably from Kant's critical 
inquiries into the potential of the human mind, which 
are especially evoked in the exchange of letters with 
Ophelia. As such profound questions admit of no 


definite responses, he cannot be expected to advance 

further than Shakespeare, and therefore follows 

Jaques' conclusions: 

It is all role, the role itself and the 
playactor who is behind it, and in him in turn 
his thoughts and plans and enthusiasms and 
buffooneries — all belong to the moment 
and swiftly flee, like the word on the 
comedian's lips. (p. 209) 

When he concludes his last letter: "Love me, in a 

word, without further pondering," (p. 211) the 

seeming flippancy reveals in fact the wisdom which 

recognizes love as the one experience by which man 

can transcend his isolation in space and time. 32 

The epistolary interpolation in the Fourteenth 

Nightwatch provides one of the numerous examples of 

Bonaventura ' s virtuosity in blending ideas from the 

full range of sources from which Western civilisation 

drew its inspiration and strength. This creative 

approach to outstanding works of the intellect 

accords with the precepts of the enlightenment which 

Lichtenberg endeavoured to promote. To him the 

inevitable prerequisite for meaningful artistic 

Cf. Eccl. IX, 9: "Live joyfully with the wife 
whom thou lovest all the days of the life of thy 
vanity, which he hath given thee under the sun, all 
the days of thy vanity: for that is thy portion in 
this life, and in thy labour which thou takest under 
the sun." Like Shakespeare's insights, those of 
Ecclesiastes also run consistently through the 
Nichtwatches . 


achievement was familiarity with the views held by 

the great thinkers of all ages, combined with 

personal probing into the methods by which they 

arrived at their conclusions. These he wanted 

constantly tested, for he agreed with Johnson in the 

"Preface to Shakespeare" 

What mankind have long possessed thy have often 
examined and compared; and if they persist to 
value the possession, it is because frequent 
comparisons have confirmed opinion in its 

Shakespeare, that "comprehensive genius" as Johnson 
calls him, 33 is constantly used in the Nightwatches 
as a touchstone with which Kreuzgang tests the 
validity of his own opinions. 

Bartenschlager describes the work as somber, and 
as the most nihilistic prose work of the German 
Romantic Epoch, as well as that of the greatest 
genius. 34 Its romantic and despairing elements are, 
however, already present in Shakespeare, especially 
in those works which are quoted or alluded to by 
Kreuzgang, who knows and uses them in the 
assimilatory way which Lichtenberg recommended and 

Ed. Adams, "Preface to Shakespeare," 
pp. 329, 336. 

34 Bartenschlager, p. 347. 


Most of the plays which are worked into the 
fabric of the Nightwatches were made memorable to 
Lichtenberg through the sensitive interpretations of 
Garrick, and he wrote about this experience: "To act 
like Garrick and to write like Shakespeare are the 
effects of very deep-seated causes." He elaborated 
this thought at various times, for he wanted to 
recommend the art of these men as an example to those 
idealistic young German writers who expected genius 
to inspire them as if they were possessed and without 
much effort on their part. He therefore stressed 
about Garrick: 

Almost all the newer English authors, who are so 
much read, imitated, and aped by us, were his 
friends. He helped form them, while they in 
their turn helped to form him. Man was his 
study, from the cultured and artificial denizens 
of the salons of St. James, down to the savage 
creatures in the eating-houses of St. Giles. He 
attended the same school as Shakespeare, and 
like the latter, did not wait for inspiration, 
but worked hard (for in England all is not left 
to genius, but worked hard for) ; by this school 
I mean London, where a man with such a talent 
for observation can learn as much by experience 
in a year as in a whole lifetime spent in some 
little town, where all have the same hopes and 
fears, the same subjects for wonder and gossip 
and nothing is out of the ordinary. 35 

As Lichtenberg shared the eighteenth-century 

belief that literature is the repository of man's 

accumulated wisdom, he regarded all its 

Ed. Mare, Lichtenberg 's Visits to Engl and 
pp. 11, 8. 


manifestations with seriousness. His certainty about 
the importance of literature turned him into one of 
the first and foremost who saw the inherent dangers 
in German idealism, which centered more and more on 
grand and sublime concepts and progressively lost 
touch with reality. 

The literary controversies into which this 
attitude involved him vibrate through various parts 
of the Niqhtwatches . notably in the "Dithyramb on 
Spring" (p. 189) , and in passages where the 
playwrights Iff land and Kotzebue are ridiculed. One 
such text follows directly on an exclamation in which 
Kreuzgang couples Hamlet's famous guest ion "To be or 
not to be" with an invocation of the devil, showing 
that even when Bonaventura uses common expletives he 
remains conscious of literary precedent, for 
Shakespeare often uses the devil to indicate 
spontaneous or emphatic speech. 

Hamlet, for instance, when reminded that his 
father died four months ago and that it is time to 
cease mourning, calls out: "Nay then, let the devil 
wear black, for I'll have a suit of sables" (Act III, 
Sc. II) . The effect of that single dark figure among 
colourful courtiers is vividly described by 
Lichtenberg. The stranger in black, the enigmatic 
"tall manly figure, wrapped in a cloak" who "strode 


through the arch and stood on a grave stone" in the 

Fourth Nightwatch (p. 76) , brings Hamlet to mind all 

the more, as Kreuzgang continues: 

I always step before an alien unusual human life 
with the same feelings as before a curtain 
behind which a Shakespearean drama is to be 
produced; and I like it best if the former as 
well as the latter is a tragedy, for, besides 
genuine seriousness, I can suffer only tragic 
jest and such fools as in King Lear ; precisely 
because these alone are truly audacious and 
carry on their clownery en gros , and without 
regard, over the whole of human life. (p. 67) 

As Kreuzgang himself identifies with Hamlet, 

projection of that figure onto another character 

should be an indication that Kreuzgang sees himself, 

or part of himself, in the strangers he meets during 

his watch. He achieves the association by various 

means. When he introduces the poet he tells of 

having been just such a poet himself (p. 31), in 

other cases the connections are more circumspect. 

When he calls a vagrant, of whom nothing else is told 

but that he is dying in poverty and solitude, a 

Joseph, whom "the brothers have cast out," it must 

be remembered that Kreuzgang sees himself as such a 

Joseph figure, spurned by others for the superior 

gualities of his intellect. He watches as this 

pathetic "beggar with neither house nor home fights 

against slumber, which wants to lay him so sweetly 

and enticingly in death's arms," and his fear of 

consequences prevents him from interference. It is 


then that he repeats Hamlet's question: "Shall I 
cheat death of a beggarly life? By the devil, I 
really do not know what is better — to be or not to 
be!" (p. 159). Hamlet, in the same predicament 
decided for life, because he feared that existence 
after death might be worse. Kreuzgang elected to let 
the beggar die, for "the brothers are not worthy that 
Joseph walk among them! — Let him sleep away." With 
Hamlet's situation in mind, his judgement would 
indicate at least a strong hope for a better 
existence after death, though like Hamlet, Kreuzgang 
cannot be absolutely sure and thus leaves the 
question open. 

Such associations abound in the text, but they 
are not revealed at first sight or by casual reading, 
just as it is not likely that the beginning of the 
Nightwatches will immediately be identified with the 
first scene of Hamlet . Yet in both works a 
nightwatch establishes the dark and sombre mood in 
which the plot is to unfold, in both a watchman 
starts his round of duty, and a ghost is almost 
instantly mentioned. 

Kreuzgang introduces spectres in a seemingly 
irrelevant aside, remarking that he has protected 
himself "against the evil spirits with the sign of 
the cross" (p. 29) . Lichtenberg shared an interest 


in superstitious beliefs with other thinkers of his 

age, such as Johnson, who also wanted to fathom ideas 

which persist so universally notwithstanding their 

seeming irrationality. The guest ion of whether ghosts 

can and do exist falls also into this category and 

exercised especially Johnson's mind. Lichtenberg 

himself was mainly interested, when he saw the ghost 

of Hamlet's father in London, by what means Garrick 

created awe and terror and left his audience with a 

lasting impression of fright. 

He shares this memorable event in his "Second 

Letter from England," where he reports that while the 

ghost "stands motionless," the fear which it exudes 

is reflected and magnified by Garrick 7 s reaction. 

This he describes in minute detail, concluding: 

His whole demeanour is so expressive of terror 
that it made my flesh creep even before he began 
to speak. The almost terror-struck silence of 
the audience, which preceded his appearance and 
filled one with a sense of insecurity, 
probably did much to enhance this effect. 36 

Lichtenberg emphasized in his writings 

consistently that he venerated Shakespeare as one of 

the greatest masters of language and as an 

unsurpassed observer of the hidden springs of human 

behaviour, and that he considered this combination 

indispensable in the study of man. His "Letters from 

36 Ed. Mare, Lichtenberg' s Visits to England , p. 



England" pay special tribute to the great English 
dramatist, and at the same time they demonstrate, how 
seriously Lichtenberg took his own precept that 
intellectual gains can only be expected when the best 
that is available has been absorbed, and then is 
integrated into new thought patterns. His voluminous 
writings and letters show that references to 
Shakespeare were part of his normal system of 
thinking, and that he used them habitually to test 
his own conclusions about life. He practised and 
recommended this method years before the superb 
translations of Schlegel and Tieck turned Shakespeare 
into one of the best loved authors in Germany. Tieck 
and the brothers Schlegel, incidentally, had been 
students in Gottingen and were known to Lichtenberg 

After their masterful translations became 
available and Wilhelm Meister had set the tone, 
quotations from Shakespeare and allusions to his 
works became common practice for educated Germans. 
Imaginative variations of his thoughts, however, and 
creative use of his language and ideas, still remain 
a rarity. Lichtenberg and Bonaventura are outstanding 


WILLIAM HOGARTH (1697-1764) 

While Shakespearian allusions are the most 
immediate signs of English influences in the 
Niqhtwatches , references to Hogarth and his serio- 
comic subjects are also particularly noticeable. 
These merit special attention in the search for the 
author, as well as for the meaning and intent of the 
Niqhtwatches , for this English master of the 
pictorial moral satire figures much less frequently 
in German literature than Shakespeare. Writers who 
valued Hogarth for his insights into human nature 
rather than for his wit and dramatic subject matter 
are rarer still. In England it was mainly Fielding 
who acknowledged Hogarth's keen observations of human 
nature and his didactic intentions, and he paid 
repeated homage to these gifts in all his three major 
novels. His exclamation in Tom Jones after the 
escape of Sophia, "0 Shakespeare, had I thy pen! 
Hogarth had I thy pencil!" (X,viii) , shows the high 
regard for the artist which Lichtenberg tried to 
communicate in his commentaries on Hogarth's prints. 



William Hogarth (1697-1764) was the first 
English painter to gain international acclaim. That 
he is increasingly recognized as a key interpreter of 
the English eighteenth century life, is demonstrated 
by the growing habit of illustrating books from and 
about this era with his works. These were promoted 
in Germany already during his lifetime by the efforts 
of Lessing and his cousin Christlob Mylius, who had 
obtained the collaboration of the artist himself in 
his translation of Hogarth's aesthetic treatise The 
Analysis of Beauty (1753) . The German version 
appeared only a year after publication in London. 

In an age when fluent elegance in writing had 
become a widespread accomplishment, Hogarth's clumsy, 
awkward prose failed to arouse the response which he 
had expected for his theories on art. While this 
handicap was removed in the German rendering, the 
Zergliederuncr der Schonheit nevertheless attracted 
little notice. Only gradually were some of its ideas 
accepted and integrated, especially his concept of 
the line of perfect beauty as a wave, because nature 
does not know any straight lines. The idea was later 
adopted by Friedrich Schlegel as a guideline to 
writing, when he recommended the Arabeske as pattern 
for the construction of novels. Wolfgang Paulsen 
suggests, therefore, that the structure of the 

Nightwatches follows the wavy line of narration as 
demanded by Schlegel, and put into practice in his 
own novel Lucinde (1799). 1 

Kreuzgang uses the same argument with which 
Hogarth commended his wave-like line of beauty, for 
he refers repeatedly to nature and real life when he 
justifies his narrative techniques. He uses the 
metaphor of an undulating river for his digressive 
and convoluted scheme of narration: "my story... like 
a narrow stream, winds through the rocky and sylvan 
passages which I heaped all around" (p. 199). 2 
Lichtenberg already recommended this mode of writing 
in 1770 when he remarked that he regarded this 
undulatory technique the most suitable, long before 
he knew about Hogarth's line of beauty or Sterne's 
method en Ziczac (B 131). This remark is 

characteristically preceded by thoughts on how the 
zigzag path can be transposed from artistic 
convention to real life, for Lichtenberg was always 
anxious to apply the lessons of art and literature to 
reality. Preoccupied with the sequence of birth, 
life and death, he proposes that the path between the 
two unalterable points of beginning and end can be 

1 Paulsen, Nachwort, pp. 163-80, pp. 178-79. 

2 The German translation for Hogarth's "Line of 
Beauty" is Schlangenlinie . Bonaventura uses the verb 
schlangeln . thus providing the link with Hogarth. 


elongated if they are not connected by a straight and 
single minded approach, but rather by a meandering 
effort of crowding as much varied experience between 
them as possible (B 129) . 

Though most of Lichtenberg' s aphorisms were only 
published after his death, he shared his ideas freely 
during his lectures and discussions. The brothers 
Schlegel were among his students, as was Ludwig 
Tieck. They were all personally known to him, and 
how far their romanticism was shaped by the 
prevailing attitude of the late enlightenment in 
Gottingen, of which Lichtenberg was the most visible 
exponent, has yet to be investigated in depth. 

While Hogarth's treatise on beauty in art was 
largely neglected, the German imagination instead was 
captured by the Gedanken iiber die Nachahmung der 
griechischen Werke in der Malerei und Bildhauerkunst 
which Johann Joachim Winckelmann published in 1755. 
This work stimulated almost immediately widespread 
interest in the visual arts and their classic models, 
and presented Greek sculpture as the ideal of 
unsurpassable perfection. Greece itself was not 
readily accessible to the normal traveller at the 
time, so Rome became the focal point of desire for 
German intellectuals, and it remained so during the 


romantic period and until the expressionists re- 
orientated aspiring artists to Paris. 

Automatic and often mindless veneration of 
classical works soon became fashionable as a result 
of Winckelmann's immense impact on German aesthetics. 
Kreuzgang ridicules this attitude in the episode of 
the "invalids' home of immortal gods and heroes, 
given shape amid a miserable humanity" (p. 193) . He 
warns "a little dilettante" whom he finds worshipping 
"a Medici Venus without arms . . . 'The divine 
backside is too elevated for you, and you cannot get 
up there, considering your puny stature, without 
breaking your neck!'" He thus paraphrases and 
parabolizes a concern which no longer worried the 
romantics, who had substituted the national for the 
classical past, but which excercised Lichtenberg, who 
opposed all conventional adulation, and proposed that 
great men should not be imitated in their works, but 
rather in the efforts and attitudes which resulted in 
their outstanding achievements. 

Kreuzgang endorses this opinion and his earthy, 
often irreverent satire is steeped in the realism of 
which Hogarth was the greatest visual master of his 
age. While Johann Kaspar Lavater (1741-1801), who 
created the fashion for physiognomy, presented only 
selected specimens of Hogarth's art, which emphasized 


deformed characters and depravity, Lichtenberg was 

always anxious — in literature, art and life — to 

consider all available aspects of a personality. His 

Commentaries on Hogarth have been largely ignored or 

dismissed by art critics, because they are concerned 

neither with Hogarth's painting technigues nor with 

aesthetics. Frederick Antal, interested in Hogarth's 

place in the history of ideas rather than in his 

influence on the development of painting, appreciates 

Lichtenberg 's commentaries as a major contribution to 

the understanding of Hogarth's importance, as of his 

time. Antal acclaims the Gottingen professor as one 

of the foremost German experts on England, and as one 

of the most active mediators between the two 

cultures, and he calls him 

the outstanding exponent and greatest 
connoisseur of English thought in Germany. 
Politically, too, he favoured the English 
constitution ... No foreigner knew England 
. . . more thoroughly, whether her court or her 
lower classes, her literature, theatre, art, 
philosophy or science. Nothing was more 
congenial to his rationalism and empiricism than 
the realism of English art and literature. 3 

Antal correctly implies that Lichtenberg, unlike 

so many of his contemporaries who also admired 

English achievements, did not copy English examples, 

but accepted from them what was congenial and in 

3 Frederick Antal, Hogarth and his Place in 
European Art (New York: Basic Books, Inc., 1962), 
pp. 206-207. 


accordance with his own philosophy. What he admired 
in Hogarth was the gift for didactic satire, a 
positive realism which did not shrink from 
degradation but always left hope for improvement, and 
the unsurpassed genius to reveal in a single visual 
moment the true character of his figures, their past 
and even their possibilities for the future. 

Besides Lichtenberg it is Jean Paul (1763-1825) 
who among German writers most frequently refers to 
Hogarth. His "Preface" to E. T. A. Hoffmann's 
Phantasiestiicke in Callots Manier was written in 
1813, and shows that he appreciated the influence of 
Hogarth's engravings on literature. But he sees them 
as "poetische Zerrbilder," poetical caricatures, and 
places their worth below the work of Callot. 4 This 
French artist commanded indeed a much wider range of 
subjects than Hogarth, but in his dramatic scenes the 
single human being appears submerged into the mass of 
suffering or agitated mankind. Hogarth's particular 
gift, to strip the individual of all conventional 
masks, is ignored in Jean Paul's evaluation. 

This is the quality in Hogarth which Fielding 
and Lichtenberg most admired. Bonaventura recognizes 

4 E-i — 2Lj — Hoffmans Werke . Ed. Georg Ellinger, 

1st ed. (Berlin: Deutsches Verlagshaus Bona & Co 
n.d.), p. 16. ' 


it, too, and uses it to illustrate his own 
observations. He refers directly to Hogarth three 
times, and shows his exceptional familiarity with his 
world by using the name always attributively. In the 
Seventh Nightwatch, where Kreuzgang recalls being 
delivered to the madhouse for his satires on 
"killings of the soul by church and state," the court 
consisted of "half a dozen men with juridical masks 
before their countenance, under which they concealed 
their own scoundrel's physiognomy and the other half 
of their Hogarth face." He goes on to claim that 
"they understand the art of Rubens, with which he 
transformed a laughing face into a weeping one by 
means of a single stroke" (p. 119 and 121), thus 
demonstrating not only considerable knowledge in the 
field of painting, but also determination to apply it 
to life and literature. 

The reference to "the other half of their 
Hogarth face" presupposes unusual familiarity with 
Hogarth's heads, especially as it does not apply to 
the etching which would most easily suggest itself in 
the circumstances, The Bench . an assembly of judges 
of which Hogarth drew several versions. Horst Fleig 
found the correct source of the allusion in 
Lichtenberg' s commentary to A Midnight Modern 
Conversation, a print of which Hogarth engraved the 


first version in 1733. In his almanac of 1786 
Lichtenberg had already dealt with this popular scene 
which became known in Germany as the 
Punschqesellschaf t . and when he began in 1794 to 
publish more detailed commentaries, he chose as his 
second subject for explanation the same print once 

In describing a prominent figure seated 
centrally behind the table, Lichtenberg interprets 
the drunk as a representative of the jus utrumque , 5 
and satirically twists this legal term into denoting 
the two sides of law: justice and injustice. 
Ingeniously, and with the help of several other word 
plays, he demonstrates that the drowsy asymmetrical 
face represents these two opposed aspects, with the 
left, or sinister side illustrating the law. 6 Fleig 
detected this source for Kreuzgang's metaphor, 
because his candidate for Bonaventura, August 
Klingemann, alluded to it in a theatrical review of 

Fleig draws explicit attention to the influence 
on the Nicrhtwatches of the Hogarth-Lichtenberg 
volumes on which Klingemann wrote an article in 1804. 

5 Jus utrumque: the canonical and the secular 
(Roman) law in German legal parlance. 

6 Promies, Vol. Ill, p. 693. 


Reinforcing the parallels which had already been 
noted (for instance by Gillespie) between 
Lichtenberg's commentary on The Rake's Progress and 
the mad-house scenes in the Ninth Nightwatch, Fleig 
draws attention to the metaphor of microcosm which is 
used in both cases for the lunatic asylum, while the 
world at large is called the macrocosm. He also 
points out correspondences between the Eighth and 
Ninth Nightwatches and the last two prints of the 
Rake / s Progress . 7 

Commenting on Kreuzgang's habit of describing 
events as if he had visualized them in a painting or 
in woodcuts, Fleig locates the link in Lichtenberg's 
Commentaries. He touches, however, only lightly on 
Kreuzgang's references to Hogarth's Finis or 
Tailpiece, and conseguently concludes that the 
Hogarth-Lichtenberg model applies only in a limited 
sense. 8 

Hogarth's Tailpiece is twice mentioned in the 
Nightwatches. it is used for literary satire on 
Kotzebue when Kreuzgang suggests that "time could 
fire the last pipe it smokes here with a scene from 
his last drama and, thus inspired, pass over to 

Fleig, Literarischer Vampirismus . pp. 90-91 
71, 99, and 97. 


Fleig, Literar ischer Vampirismus , pp. 72-73 
71, and 75. 


eternity!" (p. 71). August von Kotzebue (1761- 
1819) , a prolific, successful but shallow dramatist 
who also churned out satires, tales and historical 
works, though mentioned five times by name in the 
Nightwatches , does not immediately seem predestined 
for presence at such a solemn moment. He had, 
however, crudely satirized Lichtenberg and his 
relationship to Maria Dorothea Stechard in a play 
Doktor Bahrdt mit der eisernen Stirn . The girl died 
barely aged seventeen before Lichtenberg could marry 
her. He was heartbroken and expressed repeatedly 
bitter resentment towards Kotzebue (e.g. J 794, 847, 
867, 872, 873, 1231). 

A coded reference to Hogarth's Finis may be 
Ophelia's declaration that as she cannot escape her 
role she will read it to the very end—the exeunt 
omnes—behind which the actual "I" will probably 
begin (p. 213). The Latin stage direction accords 
perfectly with the theatre background to the letters 
in the Fourteenth Nightwatch, but Lichtenberg 
mentions in his almanac article that the words are 
visible in a book of comedies which Hogarth shows 
among the broken debris of his last engraving among 
other emblems of finality. 9 

9 Lichtenberg, Goettinaer Taschenkalender fur 
das Jahr 1791 . »II) Finis", pp. 206-210, p. 207. 


The Tailpiece is named the second time in the 

Sixteenth Nightwatch, where its introduction into the 

opening sentence leaves no doubt that this chapter 

was intended by the author as the last and final one. 

Kreuzgang starts 

I wish my brush could complete this ultimatum 
and Hogarthian tail-piece quite distinctly 
before every man's eyes; unfortunately, 
however, the colours needed are lacking in the 
night, and I can make nothing but shadows and 
airy nebulosities flit before the lens of my 
magic lantern, (p. 229) 

While everything will now come to an end, life itself 

is experienced as a darkness in which man sees but 

indistinctly, and the lens of Kreuzgang' s magic 

lantern paraphrases Paul's metaphor: "Now we see 

through a glass darkly . . . (l Cor. XIII, 12). 

In both cases life is experienced as a penumbral 

condition, "nothing but shadows," and it is merely 

lack of illumination which prevents man from 

perceiving the higher reality which is all around 

him. The nightwatches are thus but a metaphor for 

groping in a darkness so somnolent that most people 

fall asleep and refuse active participation, and even 

the alert and ever awake watchman cannot expect to 

see clearly and distinctly. Yet the effort is 

important, for by asserting that while on earth "man, 

that Oedipus, progress only as far as blindness, but 

not in a second plot to transfiguration" (p. 143), 


Kreuzgang affirms belief in a continuity of existence 
after death. 

The Tailpiece occupies a unique position in 
Hogarth's work. Lichtenberg acquired from the 
artist's widow in London the very copy on which 
Hogarth expended his last efforts. An article in his 
almanac of 1791 is dedicated to print under its most 
common title Finis , and Lichtenberg had the engraving 
reproduced in its entirety in spite of the small 
pocket-book format of his publication. He informs his 
readers that Hogarth announced a few months before 
his death in lighthearted company that his next work 
would show the end of everything on earth. During 
the ensuing surprise and banter one friend pointed 
out in fun that this would of necessity include the 
artist himself. Hogarth affirmed this with a deep 
sigh and told his friends that the sooner the end 
would come for him, the better. 

Hogarth engraved both the word "Finis" in large 
and legible letters on smoke exhaled by the enfeebled 
Father Time, and the title, The Bathos, or Manner of 
Sinking in Subl ime Paintings, under the scene which 
he crammed with emblems of death and decay. In its 
total metonymity Finis evokes Hogarth's early 
beginning as an engraver of emblematic devices. 
There is no sense of hope or humor, and as other 


critics Lichtenberg missed Hogarth's usual 
intellectual level, though he detected a spark of 
customary inventiveness in the darkly negative 
message of the gallows, the only object that remains 
erect in a scene of utter desolation and 
disintegration. 10 

Hogarth's fame as an interpreter of his age was 
achieved through passionate involvement with the 
important concerns of his time. Lichtenberg always 
propagated such an attitude as prereguisite to 
intellectual stature, and Antal recognizes this 
spiritual kinship by calling Lichtenberg 's "consuming 
interest in mankind — as consuming as Hogarth's. 1,1 1 

Hogarth was actively involved in most of the 
major concerns of his epoch, and Ronald Paulson 
regards it as one of the central facts of his life 
"that he was connected in some way with almost all 
the great philanthropies and humanitarian projects of 
his time — from the parliamentary committee on prison 
reform of 1729 to the Foundling Hospital, from St. 
Bartholomew's Hospital to the London [hospital] and 
the Bethlehem [Bedlam]. One cannot dissociate this 
obvious interest and involvement from the theme that 

"II) Finis," pp. 206, 208. 
1 Antal, p. 207. 


runs through his engraved works." 12 He was equally 
abreast of literary and critical developments, for he 
was in constant demand to illustrate some of the most 
influential English authors of his century, such as 
Swift, Pope, Fielding and Sterne, and from his keen 
perception of their achievement developed personal 
bonds of esteem and friendship, especially with Henry 
Fielding. 13 Thus he gave a title to his ultimate 
work which links it so obviously with Peri Bathous or 
the Art of Sinking in Poetry , a literary satire from 
the Scriblerus Club, published under the pseudonym 
Martinus Scriblerus, the learned dunce whose lavish 
praise is meant as condemnation. 

This satire on shallow and pretentious writing 
is attributed mainly to Pope. It proceeds through 
brilliant manipulation of words and their double 
meaning to equate bathos, or the profound, with the 
low and therefore common, in art, which is 
satirically recommended as being most readily 
understood and thus most in demand. Chapter XIII 
deals with "A Project for the Advancement of the 
Bathos" and recommends "a Rhetorical Chest of 

12 Ronald Paulson, Hogarth: His Life. Art, and 
Times. 2 Vols. (New Haven: Yale University Press 
1971), Vol. II, p. 35. 

13 See R. E. Moore, Hogarth's Literary 
Relationships (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota 
Press) , 1948. 


Drawers" into which tropes and similes from all times 
should be collected, while "every Composer will soon 
be taught the Use of this Cabinet, and how to manage 
all the Registers of it, which will be drawn out much 
in the Manner of those in an Organ." 14 

Hogarth followed Pope's advice and heaped around 
the expiring Father Time every conceivable symbol of 
death and decline, but by drawing attention to his 
source of inspiration, he provided a ludicrous 
perspective on a scene which is otherwise noticeably 
lacking in light touches. The comic relief which he 
usually adds freely to his tragic scenes is in this 
last instance only provided by the incongruity of a 
satiric title and the tragic content. This technigue 
of abrupt juxtaposition of extremes is disturbing to 
the reader and viewer. Some of Bonaventura ' s most 
perturbing passages rely on the same method. 

Ronald Paulson sees in the subject of this last 
print "the whole world regarded tragically when it is 
of course only comic," 15 but Antal also notes that in 
his ultimate work Hogarth "mocks at painting in the 
grand style, even if in his customary ambiguous way, 
and pokes fun at the trivial objects it sometimes 

14 Poetry a nd Prose of Alexander Pope , 
pp. 428-29. 

15 Ed. Paulson, Hogarth: His Life. Art and 
Times , p. 408. 


depicts. 1,16 Awareness of the comic undercurrents 
within the unremittingly sombre scene is strongly 
expressed in both critical appraisals. In 
establishing the Tailpiece as the point of reference 
for his ultimate nightwatch, Bonaventura reminds his 
readers of the stoical and creative way in which 
Hogarth awaited his death, and exhorts them to use 
this last work as a visual aid and complement to his 
own final statements. At the same time, he follows 
Hogarth's method of revealing his sources and thereby 
introduces not only a distancing device, but also a 
burlesgue element into the grief and bewilderment 
aroused by the knowledge of certain death. 

The universality of this despair is demonstrated 
by the number and long tradition of the emblems for 
the end of all things which Hogarth has assembled. 
Bonaventura matches these by the many references to 
mankind's dread of death and the human impotence to 
penetrate with rational means beyond it. In both 
cases, puns and allusions are used to create the mood 
of inescapability and inevitability, and their 
prevalence reveals a pattern of deliberate intent. 

Hogarth's skill in working with allusions and 
puns is well recognized, and Paulson describes his 
last work as punning "on a scale unprecedented even 

16 Antal, pp. 167-68. 


in his work." 17 Bartenschlager observes a similar 
concentration of coded cues when he calls the 
Niqhtwatches "a literary echo gallery." 18 

Hogarth's integration into Bonaventura's 
narration is no less thorough and organic than that 
of Shakespeare, and many other Hogarthian touches can 
be discerned besides those which have already been 
noted by critics. The poor poet, whose towering 
aspirations contrast ludicrously with the demeaning 
restrictions imposed on him by his poverty, is 
another figure which connects the world of Kreuzgang 
to that of Hogarth. In his Distressed Poet (1736) 
Hogarth was one of the first to highlight through art 
the plight of the unsuccessful idealist who has to 
subsist in a garret while planning to improve the 
universe. Notes scattered all over the floor testify 
to his disconsolateness, and at the same time reveal 
the direction in which his thoughts are taking wing. 
A drawn sword hints at thoughts of suicide. A 
famished dog (not mice as in the Eighth Nightwatch, 
p. 129) gnaws on a book, symbol for the highest 
achievement a writer can attain. The painting, Antal 

Ed. Paulson, Hogarth: His Life, Art and 

Times, p. 409 

18 Bartenschlager, p. 349 


suggests, may have been inspired by Henry Fielding's 
Author's Farce (1730). 19 

Lichtenberg discussed the Distressed Poet in his 
almanac of 1790, where he added the subtitle "Der 
Dichter in der Noth" — the poet in need/despair. A 
suicide who hanged himself in a garret was shown by 
Hogarth in his Gin Lane (1751). An almanac article 
of 1795 deals with this and its companion print Beer 
Street . 

When Lichtenberg began his more elaborate 
separate commentaries in 1794, he started the new 
series with Strolling Actresses dressing in a Barn 
(1738). 20 The exuberance of emblematic detail in 
this print lends itself particularly well to 
sophisticated interpretation, and therefore it had 
already been selected as one of the subjects for the 
first of Lichtenberg's Hogarth articles in 1784. The 
incongruity of the poetic imagination in the face of 
a humbling reality is once again the general topic of 
the satire. 

A company of strolling players is shown in the 
sgualor of a barn preparing themselves for their 
stage appearance as gueens and goddesses. An actor, 
dressed as deus ex machina . hangs his socks for 

19 Antal, p. 102. 

20 Promies, Vol. Ill, pp. 669-88. 


drying on the theatrical thunderclouds, a detail 
echoed when the marionette theater director in the 
Fifteenth Nightwatch hangs himself on stage from a 
cloud (p. 227) . Each object is an integral part of 
the scene and at the same time an emblem, and every 
gesture and action is loaded with actual as well as 
symbolic meaning. Hogarth offers a hilarious view of 
life behind the curtains, and at the same time a 
theater-metaphor that unmasks the pretensions and the 
tragedy of life. 

Lichtenberg starts his exposition with the 
question, why men are present when the artist calls 
his work Strolli ng Actresses , and he concludes that 
from Hogarth significance must always be expected, 
most of all in his choice of titles. Lichtenberg 
uses all available clues—theatre bills strewn on the 
floor between broken eggs, a chamber pot and a 
discarded pair of breeches, and an Act of Parliament 
against strolling players (1737) prominently 
deposited next to another chamber pot near an 
emperor's crown— to detect in the crowded scene a 
coded call of defiance by the spirited women against 
the parliamentary supression of their art. Thus a 
comical, lively scene contains a universal parable of 
life, but on another level presents a particular 


dilemma to which Hogarth wants to draw special 
attention. 2 1 

Such subtle, multi-layered satire, and the art 

of fusing several messages together delighted 

Lichtenberg, who was himself a master of suggesting 

implications with the fewest possible words. So is 

Bonaventura, who adds to his impressive display of 

theatre-metaphors when he has his Clown declare in 

the Prologue: 

What is the point of seriousness anyway? Man is 
a facetious animal by birth, and he merely 
acts on a larger stage than do the actors on 
the small one inserted into this big one as in 
Hamlet ; however importantly he may want to take 
things, in the wings he must still put off 
crown, sceptre and theatrical dagger and creep 
into his little dark chamber as an exited 
comedian, until it pleases the director to 
announce a new comedy, (p. 139) 22 

Thus the Clown sums up in a nutshell Hogarth's 

parable of the strolling actresses as interpreted by 


Placing the crown next to the chamber pot is a 
typical Hogarthian ploy. While Lichtenberg 
particularly admired these touches, Goethe spoke for 
most educated Germans when he found fault with such 
crude naturalism. Moore points out that Fielding, 

21 Promies, Vol. Ill, pp. 669-71. 

22 The reference to "a new comedy" is one of the 
many indications that Kreuzgang expects existence 
after death. 

like Hogarth, met with similar objections in England, 
for he "refused to idealize his characters, thus to 
most contemporaties they were 'low.'" 23 The 
Niqhtwatches stand in the same tradition and have 
still to contend with criticism of their deliberate 
menippean mixture of the coarse and ludicrous with 
the sublime. 

The theater perspective is also used in the 
illustrations for a new edition of The New 
Metamorphosis (first published 1708) , one of the 
first commissions with which Hogarth was entrusted. 
The work is an opportunistic adaptation of Apuleius' 
Golden Ass by Charles Gildon (1665-1724), an English 
writer now mainly remebered through Pope's 
disparaging mention of him in the Dunciad . Gildon 
added considerable spice to the classic tale by 
transforming his protagonist not into an ass, but 
rather a Bolognese lap dog, an animal with 
considerably better opportunities to observe human 
frailties at close guarters. The racy interludes 
which he introduced were mainly of the Decameronic 
kind. Most of the serious concerns which distinguish 
The Golden Ass by Apuleius were thereby lost; but 
Gildon tried to preserve some vestige of symbolic 
significance by treating his main characters 

23 Moore, p. 157. 


allegorically. The protagonist is therefore turned 
into Fantasio, a permanent child in appearance but a 
man in mind and deed, while his mother is Donna Musa 
des Intentiones. 

The second edition in 1724 was illustrated by 
the comparatively inexperienced and unknown Hogarth, 
and unlike his later practice he simply supplied 
mostly reissues of already existing plates. 24 The 
frontispiece shows two asses accompanying Apuleius 
and Lucian, the classic masters of the menippea, and 
the originators of the plot. Two satyrs support the 
four figures, thereby advertising The New 
Metamorphosis as a satire. These six figures 
foreground a scene from Gildon's tale. Hogarth added 
only minor but significant details: a church which 
represents the spiritual dimension required of the 
menippea, and a curtain through which a view of the 
action can be gained, a visible expression of the 
satirical contention that life is but a stage play. 

From the original, Gildon retained the long tale 
of Amor and Psyche . one of the earliest digressions 
in menippean literature, and the most popular of them 
all. It has no other connection with the main story 
than that it is recounted to comfort and encourage a 

24 Ronald Paulson, Hogarth's Graphic Works . 1st 
compl. ed. rev. (New Haven: Yale University Press, 
1970). Vol. II, Nr. 38, Cat. Nos. 35 ff. 


damsel in distress, but it suggests lofty spiritual 
dimensions behind the tragic-comic trials and 
tribulations of the main plot. 

The Fourth Plate in this series ( Nr. 41, Cat. 
Nr. 38) is of special interest in connection with the 
Niqhtwatches . It is the only one which Hogarth added 
himself, and it could almost pass for an illustration 
of the moment in the Niqhtwatches where the alchemist 
shoemaker finds the coffer containing a child instead 
of the expected treasure. Hogarth's infant is fully 
dressed, and the scene, instead of crossroads, is a 
dilapidated room in a desolate castle to which the 
dwarf Fantasio had been forced to flee, hidden in a 
trunk. Of the three persons present, the servant who 
accompanied the boy corresponds to the shoemaker, 
especially as he stands near a tripod which Hogarth 
added — just like Bonaventura — to introduce a touch of 
the supernatural (p. 65) . The mistress of the ruin 
can be described in the very words which Kreuzgang 
uses for his gypsy mother, a "great gigantic figure," 
(p. 2 33) "with shaggy hair tousled about her 
forehead" (p. 61). In Gildon's Metamorphosis she is 
the witch Invidosa, and the little refugee who seeks 
her protection is horror-struck when he finds that 
she expects him to become her lover. In his 
reluctant embrace she changes, however, into a 


beautiful young girl, and a passionate love affair 
with a tragic ending ensues. 

Gildon's enchantress is thus a variation of the 
mythical demons who personify the human passions 
which afford a vision of never ending bliss, but lead 
to loneliness and death. Her affinity to Kreuzgang's 
gypsy mother illuminates the allegorical significance 
of his ill-assorted parents, and the human dichotomy 
which they symbolize. 

A woman very much like that appeared to 
Lichtenberg in the last dream he found significant 
enough to record. This occurred during the night of 
February 9th to 10th in the month of his death, and 
concerns a strange and seemingly senseless encounter 
in a country pub where people played dice. A "tall 
bony woman" sat nearby and knitted, reminiscent of 
the goulish female-spectators around the guillotine, 
who counted their stitches together with the heads 
that rolled. When the dreamer asked her what could 
be won in the dice game, she answered "Nothing," and 
the encounter ends on this single word as 
tantalisingly as the Nightwatches , leaving the reader 
to draw his own conclusions (L 707) . While such a 
woman represents irrational and subconscious traits, 
the spiritual side of humanity with its intellectual 
demands and unf ulf illable striving towards 


perfection, as symbolised by gold, is represented by 
the alchemist father. 

The pain and pressure exerted by the 
incompatability of such extremes in human nature is 
expressed by Bonaventura with the emblematic skill of 
Hogarth by a term from genetics, lex cruciata (p. 
Ill) . While this indicates the biological law of 
crossbreeding, the expression could also be 
translated as the rule that life eguals agonizing 

The child seen on the Third Woodcut (p. 63) is 
as yet undisturbed by conflicting passions. The 
dichotomy of body and soul is, however, already 
apparent as symbolized by the particulary racy 
Shrovetide plays of the shoemaker and mastersinger 
Hans Sachs (1494-1576) , on which the infant Kreuzgang 
sits, and the book from which he feeds his mind, 
Bohme's Aurora . The body position emphasizes the 
split in human personality once more by assigning the 
books to his upper and lower regions, and by allowing 
him close contact with the earthy artisan poet, while 
access to the mystic speculations of Bohme is 
attained through the windows of the soul, the eyes. 

Bonaventura uses paintings to establish emblems 
and allegories in Hogarth's manner, and to compress 
his narration, while at the same time activating the 


reader's imagination and participation. For this 
reason the early years of the poor poet are also 
explained through a painting, which supplies instant 
information about a happy and loved childhood (p. 
131) . Numerous phrases and metaphors witness to 
Bonaventura's habitual pictorial thinking. 

Lichtenberg' s interest in the visual arts was 
intense, for he regarded them as a prime repository 
for the development, change and dispersal of ideas. 
His knowledge of the great works of art was 
extensive, and he was especially well placed while in 
London as guest of the King and of many great houses 
to acguaint himself with great works, as well as with 
the critical theories about them. He left a record 
of many artists and celebrated works which he saw 
during his second visit to England, and mentions 
among others an impressive head of the blind Homer. 25 
When his passionately desired project of visiting 
Rome came to nothing, Lichtenberg communicated his 
keen dissapointment to Johann Gottwert Muller in the 
self-satirizing form of an abbreviated tragedy, where 
he condenses his frustrated hopes and interest into 
acts. "In the second act," he reports, "Laokoon made 

25 See Lichtenberg in England , ed. Gumbert, 
Vol. I, p. 106. Homer's Head from the collection of 
Dr. Mead as illustration of the many classical 
sculptures which Lichtenberg saw in England. 


his appearance, the Apollo of Belvedere and the 

Medici Venus in Florence; all walls were covered with 

Raphaels and Corregios. " 26 

Every one of these highlights in Lichtenberg's 

vision of Italy is mentioned by Bonaventura. He has 

integrated the visual arts into his tale in a truly 

original manner, but in the didactic spirit of the 

enlightenment, as expressed by Jonathan Richardson 

(1665-1745) in his Theory of Painting (1715), 

according to whom they should be "esteemed not only 

as an enjoyment, but as another language, which 

completes the whole art of communicating our 

thoughts." Richardson sees painting as a means of 

passing on information, and he formulates the 

attitude of the enlightenment when he claims: 

The great and chief ends of painting are to 
raise and improve nature; and to communicate 
ideas; not only those which we may receive 

Zb Promies IV, 1784, p. 593. 
Bonaventura uses Correggio's Nativity to illustrate 
the symbolic meaning of light at the death of the 
freethinker. "It is the double illumination in the 
Correggio night and fuses the earthly and heavenly 
ray into one marvellous splendour" (p. 33) . 
That "the splendour radiating from the figure of 
Christ throws light all around," and that "mortal 
eyes cannot bear" such "rays of supernatural light" 
was already noticed by Giorgio Vasari, The Lives of 
the Artists (1550 and 1568), sel . and tr. George 
Bull, New York: Penguin Books, (1965) 1977 p. 281. 

Following Vasari many later critics commented on 
this dual source of light, among them Sir Joshua 
Reynolds in his Discourses (1769-90), and long before 
him Jonathan Richardson in his Theory of Painting 
(1715) . 


otherwise, but such as without this art 
could not possibly be communicated; whereby 
mankind is advanced higher in the rational 
state, and made better; and that in a way easy, 
expeditious, and delightful. 27 

He also refers to it as "this hieroglyphic language 

[that] completes what words or writing began and 

sculpture carried on, and thus perfects all that 

human nature is capable of in the communication of 

ideas, till we arrive at a more angelical and 

spiritual state in another world." Bonaventura has 

developed this idea to include music, "the mysctic 

hieroglyph (93)," which bridges the gap between 

intellectual and emotional understanding. "It is the 

first sweet sound of the distant beyond, and the muse 

of song is the mystical sister who points the ways to 

heaven" (p. 37) . Lessing based several of his 

theories on the relation between writing and the 

visual arts on Richardson's works. Sometimes he even 

used the same examples, for instance Timanthes' 

technique which so impressed Bonaventura (p. 197) of 

conveying inexpressible grief by shrouding the 

face. 28 Lessing' s opinion that Timanthes refrained 

from displaying his artistic brilliance out of 

27 Jonathan Richardson, Works (1773; rpt. 
Hildesheim: Georg 01ms, 1969), p. 247. The facsimile 
is reproduced from a copy in the possession of the 
Library of the University of Gottingen. 

28 Richardson, pp. 21, 256 and p. 52. 


compassion with suffering, and that he veiled the 
grief that could not be alleviated, has to be taken 
into account when Kreuzgang's reactions to the 
misfortunes of others are assessed. 29 

Laokoon pleads for artistic restraint not only 
out of compassion, but also from aesthetic 
consideration. Lessing admits of but one exception 
to this rule: when starvation is the subject. His 
paradigm is Ugolino from Dante's Inferno . Canto XXX, 
and Ugolino is also shown in the extremities of his 
plight in the Nightwatches (p. 133) . 

As Bonaventura deviates in some details from 
Dante's description, it is generally assumed that his 
source must have been the drama Ugolino (1768) by 
Heinrich Wilhelm von Gerstenberg (1737-1823) . It is 
not known whether Lichtenberg knew this tragedy, 
though he was familiar with Gerstenberg with whom he 
became acquainted as editor of the Gottingische 

29 Lessing, Vol. XI, "Wie die Alten den Tod 
gebildet: eine Untersuchung, 11 (1769), pp. 3-55. 
Lessing arrives here at the conclusion that the 
youthful genii with inverted torches on antique 
sarcophaguses are personifications of death. From 
this he deduced that death was not experienced as 
gruesome in classical times, an opinion which he 
finds reinforced by the conception of Sleep and Death 
as twin brothers (p. 11) . vol. IX, "Laokoon: oder 
iiber die Grenzen der Malerei und Poesie." l.Teil 
1766, pp. 16-17. 


Magazin. 30 But on his second sojourn in England he 
made a special note of two prints, one of them being 
an Uqolino painted by West and engraved by Green. 31 

George III had appointed the American Benjamin 
West in 1772 as court painter. Lichtenberg's 
references to him must therefore be taken seriously, 
though the Uqolino print could not be located in the 
collections of the British Museum or of Her Majesty 
the Queen, and it is not included in The Paintings of 
Benjamin West by H. v. Erf fa and A. Staley. 32 

This episode from the Inferno was a popular 
topic for painters at the time, for the example of 
Ugolino had been chosen by the Richardson to advance 
his own contention that painting is superior to all 
the other arts. Arranging history, poetry, sculpture 
and painting in ascending order, he bases his 
argument, somewhat ingeniously, on the judgment that 
Dante improved considerably on the account of the 
Florentine historian Vallani. A bas-relief wrongly 
attributed to Michelangelo was appraised by 
Richardson as surpassing both of them, and he 

30 Promies, Vol. Ill, p. 3 95, No. 269: Letter to 
Heinrich Wilhelm von Gerstenberg, 1780. 

3 1 

Ed.Gumbert, Lichtenberq in England , Vol. I, 

32 Helmut v. Erf fa and Allen Staley, The 

Paintings of Benjamin Wp.^ (New Haven: YaTe" 

University Press) , 1986. 


clenches his proof by claiming "could we see the same 
story painted by the same great master, it will be 
easily conceived that his must carry the matter still 
farther." Therefore: "painting compleats [sic] and 
perfects . . . this is the utmost limit of human 
power in the communication of ideas." 33 

Richardson, a fashionable though undistinguished 
artist, was a discerning art critic. As friend of 
Pope, Gay and Prior, he was sensitized to the 
intellectual currents of his time, and his Theory of 
Painting was the first important work on aesthetic 
theory by an English author. Lessing was influenced 
by a French translation, and used and refined many of 
his ideas. Richardson advocated interest in art as a 
way of improving perception and manners, and his view 
of painting was that it should serve to raise and 
improve nature, and above all to communicate ideas. 
This concept, especially regarding the dissemination 
of ideas, was accepted by Lessing and Lichtenberg, as 
by all art critics of the enlightenment. Bonaventura 
also accepts Richardson's claim that "painting has 
another advantage over words; and that is, it pours 
ideas into our minds, words only drop them. The 

3 Richardson, "A Discourse on the Science of a 
Connoisseur," pp. 241-346, pp. 256-263. 


whole scene opens at one view, whereas the other way 
lifts up the curtain little by little." 34 

Richardson's challenge concerning the Ugolino- 
theme was only taken up after his son republished his 
works in 1773, and dedicated them to Sir Joshua 
Reynolds, President of the Royal Academy and Fellow 
of the Royal Society. Sir Joshua rose to the 
occasion, and his painting Uqolino was finished in 
the same year and exhibited to general acclaim at the 
Royal Academy. A mezzotint of this work was produced 
by J. Dixon in the following year. 

Prominent among the painters of the 
enlightenment who followed Richardson's precepts was 
Heinrich Fussli (1741-1825), or Henry Fuseli as he 
was called when he settled in England after he became 
involved in a controversy with the city fathers of 
his native Zurich, and had to flee with his fellow 
culprit, Johann Kaspar Lavater (1741-1801) . His art 
visualises in Richardsonian manner all the major 
intellectual and literary trends of his time. Like 
Richardson and Hogarth, Fuseli was a painter with a 
passionate interest in a variety of contemporary 
concerns, and he became closely associated with 
leading minds in England—especially Garrick and his 

Richardson, "Theory of Painting," pp. 1-157, 


circle, and later with Blake. He also kept in touch 
with events in Germany, and remained close to 
Lavater, and through him to Goethe and the Weimar 

Fuseli's work is filled with menippean images 
and the extremes which are an integral part of the 
genre. He was fascinated by the power and serene 
perfection of classic art, but more so by irrational 
passions and emotions, by dreams and the 
superstitious recesses of the human mind. Much of 
his work is of disturbing intensity, but he could 
also command the satiric vein, and his first drawing 
of the Ugolino-theme is a mock-heroic parody of the 
grand manner. He was inspired by classic ideals, as 
well as by Shakespeare, Milton, the Ossianic 
rhapsodies and the German epic tradition, but his 
paintings also witness to the doubts and torments of 
the late enlightenment. His themes, which parallel 
largely those of Bonaventura, mirror with exceptional 
intensity the intellectual developments of the late 
enlightenment and its affinity to romanticism. 



In the words of Northrop Frye, "the Menippean 
satirist, dealing with intellectual themes and 
attitudes, shows his exuberance in intellectual ways, 
by piling up an enormous mass of erudition about his 
theme." Hence Frye regards Burton's Anatomy of 
Melancholy , for which "this creative treatment of 
exhaustive erudition is the organizing principle," as 
"the greatest Menippean satire in English before 
Swift." 1 If we trace Burton's influence upon 
eighteenth-century English satire, we can begin to 
understand how this tradition of exhausitve 
erudition, in which the Nightwatches participate, 
indicates Bonaventura's orientation towards England. 

Robert Burton's massive work was published in 
1621 under the pseudonym Democritus Junior, a name 
that was to provide the reader with a proper 
perspective. Democritus, as Burton recalls in a 

1 Frye , Anatomy , p . 311. 



lengthy introduction, was a philosopher who found the 

perpetual follies of his fellow men a source of never 

ending amusement. The mostly tragic anecdotes from 

human history cramming the pages of the Anatomy are 

thus presented as a tragi-comedy ; the human condition 

appears both pitiable and ludicrous. 

The address of "Democritus Junior to the Reader" 

starts with a stage metaphor, adding a further 

indication of the satirical intention: 

Gentle Reader, I presume thou wilt be very 
inguisitive to know what antick or personate 
actor this is that so insolently intrudes upon 
this common theatre to the world's view, 
arrogating another man's name; whence he is, why 
he doth it, and what he hath to say.^ 

Reader participation, which is such an essential part 

of the menippean tradition, is therewith demanded 

from the beginning. Burton takes such cooperation 

for granted, while later satirists solicit it much 

less openly and much more subtly. Swift, in 

particular, displayed fertile invention in assuring 

the reader's attention. Next Burton defines his 

theme by guoting Martial: 

No Centaurs here, or Gorgons look to find 
My subject is of man, and human kind . 

* Robert Burton, The Anatomy of Melancholy . Ed. 
Floyd Dell and Paul Jordan-Smith (1621; New York: 
Tudor Publishing Co., 1948). "Democritus Junior to 
the Reader," p. 11. 


Still addressing the reader, he paraphrases this 
statement bluntly in his own words, "Thou thyself art 
the subject of my discourse." While the focus of the 
satire is thus turned onto the reader, and he is 
warned not to laugh at others without first examining 
his own record, Burton does not exempt himself. He 
calls repeatedly to mind that "Democritus himself had 
a merry kind of madness," and he always includes 
himself when speaking of human failings: "No man 
amongst us so sound, of so good a constitution, that 
hath not some impediment of body or mind. We have 
all our infirmities, first or last, more or less." 3 

References to the famous and the obscure of all 
ages, and copious guotations from ancients and 
moderns alike, are not just casual asides with which 
the author of the Anatomy parades his learning. They 
constitute the core of his method to present human 
deviations from rational behaviour as comprehensively 
and from as many different angles as possible. 
Wherever feasible, examples from classic literature 
are therefore paired with illustrations from the 
scriptures, and pagan and christian writers are set 
side by side. All contribute to the depressing 
realisation that human folly prevails everywhere and 
transcends all ages and creeds. 

3 Burton, p. 11; pp. 341, 119. 


To achieve comprehensiveness, Bonaventura 
likewise couples references from classical authors 
and the scriptures, though, as he aims at utmost 
brevity, he is allusive where Burton is deliberately 
discursive and copious. From the scriptures both 
authors parallel particularly Ecclesiasticus with its 
themes of human folly, madness and despair; the view 
that "much study is a weariness to the flesh" (Eccl. 
XII, 12), and the recurrent theme that "all is 
vanity. " 

By amassing evidence of irrational passions, and 
by heaping example upon example, Burton turns 
suffering and pathos into the absurd. Ever willing 
to disclose his procedures and sources, he describes 
the serio-comic attitude with which the menippea 
reacts to human tragedies when he confesses that he 
"did sometimes laugh and scoff with Lucian, and 
satirically tax with Menippus, sometimes again I was 
bitterly mirthful, and then again burning with rage; 
I was much moved to see that abuse which I could not 
amend." 4 Kreuzgang's reactions approximate this 
oxymoronic attitude very closely. 

Burton's aim is to investigate how "passions and 
perturbations of the Mind" cause melancholy, and he 
considers man a "microcosm" in which "the body works 

4 Burton, p. 15. 


upon the mind . . . sending gross fumes into the 

brain, and so disturbing the soul, and all faculties 

of it." In support of this view he guotes Horace: 

The body, clogged with yesterday's excess. 
Drags down the mind as well . b 

The spirit, prevented from soaring off into higher 

regions by the gross demands of the body, is one of 

the basic subjects of menippean satire, and the 

Anatomy thrives on this dichotomy. As the 

physician's skill during the seventeenth century was 

far from refined and Burton never minced words, some 

of his proposed remedies are crude indeed. Never, 

though, obscene, for he is not after titillation but 

searches earnestly to reconcile the inherent passions 

and longings of human nature with reality. 

His method seems deceptively simple, a mere 

compilation of the collective wisdom and experience 

of the ages. By clever juxtaposition he exposes, 

however, confusion and contradiction everywhere. 

What one sage recommends another is sure to condemn, 

and when good advice is unanimous, people are bound 

to disregard it. While human knowledge is thereby 

held up to ridicule, Burton is also teaching the 

useful lesson that nothing must be believed without 

the test of experience. Only by sifting the evidence 

Burton, p. 217. 


and by using inherited knowledge to practical ends is 
progress possible, and this idea is illustrated by 
the parable which Burton attributes to a Didacus 
Stella : "A dwarf standing on the shoulders of a 
Giant may see farther than a Giant himself." 6 

Burton recommends with this simile how human 
insights should be advanced by patient accumulation 
of knowledge, and explains how he created out of the 
mass of inherited erudition what Bakhtin calls "the 
deliberate multi-styled and heterovoiced nature of 
all" serio-comic genres, which "reject the stylistic 
unity" natural to other genres, and are characterized 
by "multi-toned narration, the mixing of high and low 
. . . inserted genres — letters, found manuscripts, 
retold dialogues, parodies on the high genres, 
parodically reinterpreted citations." 7 Out of this 
"vast Chaos and confusion of books" Burton has shaped 
something entirely new and unigue, and he expresses 
awareness of this in the words of one Macrobius: " tis 
all mi ne and none mine ." He constantly reveals not 
only his sources, but also his methods, and so he 
tells us that his amalgamation is "as a good house- 
wife out of divers fleeces weaves one piece of cloth, 
a bee gathers wax and honey out of many flowers, and 

6 Burton, p. 20. 

7 Bakhtin, Problems , p. 108. 

makes a new bundle of all." a Bonaventura ' s technique 
is closely attuned to this method. 

The parable of the bees is ascribed by Burton to 
Lucretius and Varro, and it was later used and 
cleverly expanded by Swift in his Battle of the 
Books . Swift follows Burton also in using the 
pseudonym as a guide to the reader with which he must 
interpret the satiric intention of a work. His crass 
use of scatological imagery echoes the language of 
the Anatomy while Sterne, who borrowed and 
paraphrased freely from Burton, replaced offending 
crudeness with hints and allusions. 

When medical and rational means fail to cure a 

patient from melancholy — which in Burton's view is a 

serious, but still reversible step towards madness — 

he recommends psychological remedies, and flinches 

not from deceit. He claims: 

The pleasantest dotage that ever I read, said 
Laurentius, was of a Gentleman at Senes in 
Italy, who was afraid to piss, lest all the Town 
should be drowned; the Physicians caused the 
bells to be rung backward, and told him the 
Town was on fire, whereupon he made water, and 
was immediately cured. 9 

Gulliver saves the burning apartments of the 
Empress in Liliput in a manner strongly reminiscent 

Burton, p. 19. 
Burton, p. 477. 


of this anecdote. 10 There is also an unmistakable 

affinity between Burton's anecdote and case history 

No.l in the Ninth Nightwatch. When Kreuzgang 

introduces this unfortunate lunatic by referring to 

numerous ancient examples of misapplied greatness, "a 

Curtius, Coriolanus, Regulus and the like," he uses 

Burton's accumulative manner of confirmation as if to 

draw attention to a connection with the Anatomy . The 

insanity of No.l consists 

in valuing mankind too high and himself too low; 
therefore in contrast to bad poets, he retains 
his body fluids because he fears bringing on a 
general deluge through their release, (p. 147) 

Equating generally-admired martial heroes, like 

Coriolan, with insanity accords also with Burton's 

procedure. He classifies the urge to conquer and 

dominate as a grievous aberration of the mind and 

thus as a clear sign of madness. Burton's piquant 

and amusing story is not simply retold in the 

Nightwatches . but has been reshaped into a parable of 

general significance by translating it into an 

allegory. Every detail is transposed onto a 

different plane and a singular, peculiar incident is 

10 Jonathan Swift, Gulliver's Travels and Other 
Writings by Jonathan Swift . Ed. and intr. Miriam Kosh 
Starkmann (1962; Toronto: Bantam Books, 1981). From 
the revised ed. of 1735. The original title is 
Travels into several Remote Nations of the World by 
Lemuel Gulliver, first Surgeon and then a Captain of 
several Ships (1726). Part I, Chapt. v. 


thereby transformed into a metaphor for the anguish 
of a productive mind, unable to find an outlet for 
its titanic creativity. 

In a Germany conditioned by Greek orientated 
idealism and the high standards of classical beauty, 
scatological metaphors were not appreciated, nor 
likely to be interpreted as parables of existential 
significance. In his metonymic manipulation of the 
Italian tale Bonaventura also uses an idea which 
Lichtenberg recorded in some notes for a proposed 
satire around April 1776: "Seine gelehrte Nothdurft 
auf Papier verrichten, " — to respond to the learned 
call of nature on paper. 

Burton's definition of madness as a more violent 
stage of melancholy, 11 and of melancholy as a state 
to which everybody is prone, in particular scholars 
and thinkers, strongly stimmulated eighteenth- 
century preoccupation with madness. It is also 
helpful in understanding Kreuzgang's use of madness 
as a metonym for the irrational predicament that man 
is compelled to search for knowledge, though Eccl. I, 
17, 18 has already lamented that "in much wisdom is 
much grief: and he that increaseth knwoledge 
increaseth sorrow." 

Burton, p. 122. 


Such "syncrisis (that is, juxtaposition)" is 
typical of the menippea, and leads to the "sharp 
contrasts and oxymoronic combinations" which are so 
characteristic of the genre. 12 In this spirit Burton 
assembles from myths, history and the Bible suitable 
grounds for consolation "against Sorrow for Death of 
Friends or otherwise," adding "and so should we 
rather be glad for such as die well, that they are so 
happily freed from the miseries of this life." He 
even relates how the Thracians wept "when a child was 
born, feasted and made mirth when any man was 
buried." 13 The funeral oration which Kreuzgang 
composed as a christening gift to his foster-father's 
little son is part of this oxymoronic ancient 
tradition (p. 113). While it satirically repeats the 
age-old negative view of life, it satirizes at the 
same time those who thought that "the title [of his 
christening oration] was a mistake" (p. 114) , both 
for their blindness to the tragedy of life and for 
their unf amil iarity with classic and biblical 

Northrop Frye notes that the menippea has 
"baffled critics, and there is hardly any fiction 
writer deeply influenced by it who has not been 

12 Bakhtin, Problems , pp. 115-16, p. 118. 

13 Burton, p. 539. 


accused of disorderly conduct." 14 Typifying this 
loose construction, Burton often interrupts the flow 
of his narration with digressions; his explanation 
for the first suffices for them all: "I hold it not 
impertinent to make a brief digression . . . for the 
better understanding of that which is to follow; . . 
. it may peradventure give occasion to some men, to 
examine more accurately, search farther into this 
most excellent subject." 15 Swift uses digressions in 
his Tale of a Tub in like manner, and Bonaventura's 
many interpolations are also intended for the same 
purpose and stand in the same tradition. Rosemary 
Hunter, who regards digressions as "the salient 
structural device" in the Niqhtwatches , sees in them 
a special link to Sterne, 16 who in turn was strongly 
influenced by Burton. 

By guoting copiously from Horace and from 
Juvenal, Burton managed to combine the two schools of 
satire represented by these classic authors: elegant 
ridicule and burning indignation. Bonaventura 
attempts a similar fusion, providing a reference to 

14 Frye, p. 313. 

15 Burton, p. 127. 

16 Rosemarie Hunter, " Nachtwachen von 
Bonaventura and Tristram Shandv ." Canadian Review of 
Comparative Literature, CRCL/RCLC, I, 1974, pp. 218- 
34, p. 227. 


Juvenal by the unusual number of his chapters and by 
careful organization of his narration into five 
cycles, 17 and to Horace by direct mention of his 
Letter to the Pisans . also known as Ars Poetica (p. 
195) . 

Burton's exhaustive treatment of his chosen 
subject, mankind itself, assured that later writers 
had to use many of his topics and satirical devices. 
His influence can therefore be traced in much of 
English eighteenth-century literature, but the form 
of encyclopedic compilation which he chose for his 
satire was rarely re-used, though Frye proposes to 
adopt the word anatomy as a replacement for the term 
menippea. 18 

However, Daniel Defoe in his History of the 
Devil does provide such an anatomy. 19 In this rather 
uneven work Defoe (1661-1731) follows the conception 
and reception of the Devil from biblical times 
onwards. Defoe's irony and witty observations begin 
to sparkle when he reaches contemporary 
manifestations of this ancient enemy of mankind; and 

17 Terras, pp. 23-25. 

18 Frye, pp. 311-12. 

19 Daniel Defoe, The History of the Devil . 
Ancient and Modern in Two Parts (172 8 ; rpr. E. P. 
Publishing Ltd., 1927), from the 1819 London ed. by 
T. Kelly. 


he warns especially against self-assured 
sophistication, which denies the existence of demons 
and therefore falls easy prey to the devil when he 
appears in his modern elegant guise in guite ordinary 
and thus unexpected surroundings. 

Defoe presents the cloven foot as the sign of 
the goat, and he believes that this animal was chosen 
to represent evil because of its similarity to sheep, 
which are the symbol of the saved. In a variation on 
the old theme of duality, already inherent in the 
devil's origin as a fallen angel, he presents the 
dangers of evil not in their abhorrent traits, but 
precisely in their affinity to goodness, which allows 
perversion in unguarded moments. To drive this moral 
home Defoe points out that the ram and swine also 
have a cloven hoof. 20 

Interpreted in this light, Kreuzgang's limp is 
not just a mark of his godfather, the devil, but a 
sign of the split human nature in a much wider 
context. He himself draws attention to this double 
aspect when he mentions Vulcan almost casually in the 
same paragraph in which he tells of his affliction 
(p. 53) , for Vulcan's limp was caused by a fall from 
Olympus, just as Satan's by expulsion from heaven. 

Defoe, p. 288. 


Both were punished for aspiring to be like the 
highest god, an ambition which is inherent in the 
in the guest for knowledge to which Kreuzgang is 

Defoe points out the freguent idiomatic 
appearance of the devil in everyday language, and 
plays with such oxymoronic combinations as "a dear 
devil,"also "the keenest little devil," or "merry 
devils." He guotes proverbial references to the 
devil's misshapen ugliness, warning not to rely on 
this image. Now, he explains, the devil acts "in the 
grand manner," having finally caught up with the 
polite principles and the refined wickedness 
developed during the Roman Empire. From a 

terrifying spectre, that frightened off all but the 
most depraved and desperate, he has turned himself 
into a man of the world, ready to deceive even the 
most goodnatured and innocent. 21 It is this 
polished devil who hovers in the background of the 
Niqhtwatches r and shows himself openly in the short 
fragment, also attributed to Bonaventura, "The 
Devil's Almanac." 22 

Defoe, p. 324, p. 335, pp. 338-339, p. 412. 

22 Ed. Paulsen, Nachtwachen r "Des Teufels 
Taschenbuch, " p. 145-47. 


The blue light, which burns during Kreuzgang's 
conception (p. 235) is mentioned several times in The 
History of the Devil , where Defoe reports "all insist 
that the candles burnt blue, and all pretended that 
the Devil was certainly in the room, and was the 
occasion of it." 23 The gypsy mother's enigmatic 
reference to blue light as an indication of the 
devil's presence accords with Defoe's reference. In 
German folklore blue light has ambiguous 
connotations, and can also indicate the location of 
hidden treasure or confer magical powers. 24 

When Kreuzgang sits before the mirror of his 
imagination and perceives among other reflections 
staring at him " en face the devil as well" (p. Ill), 
the experience is reminiscent of an incident related 
by Defoe. A girl was teasingly assured that the 
devil could even assume her pleasing appearance, and 
to prove this a specially prepared mirror was 
teasingly handed to her which "had a hollow case so 
framed behind a looking-glass," that she could see 
the Devil's face with her own superimposed on it. 

23 Defoe, pp. 392-93, p. 382. 

24 Handworterbuch des deutschen Aberqlaubens . 
Ed. H. Bachtold-Staubli (Berlin: Walter de Gruyter, 
1927), entries on "blau" and "Licht." Cf. The 
Complete Fairy Tales of the Brothers Grimm . Tr. and 
intr. Jack Zipes (New York: Bantam Books, 1987), No. 
116. "The Blue Light," pp. 418-21. 


The terrified maiden was then told with idiomatic 
ambiguity, "it was nothing but her own natural 
picture, she proves herself still to be the devil of 
a lady." 25 

Another anecdote from The History of the Devil , 
this one taken by Defoe from Rocheford's Memoires . p. 
179, also resurfaces in the Nightwatches . It tells 
how the magistrates of Bern in Switzerland, finding 
that French actors opened a puppet show in their 
tranguil town, "had certainly condemned the poor 
puppets to the flame for devils, and censured, if not 
otherwise punished their masters." 26 The same 
disaster — updated to satirize the fear and frenzy 
surrounding the French Revolution — befalls Kreuzgang 
and his marionettes. "Servants of the court . . . 
took the entire company prisoners in the name of the 
state, because they had been declared politically 
dangerous" (p. 227) . 

At Lichtenberg's death only Vol. II of The 
Adventures of Robinson Crusoe from the London, 1776 
edition was in his library (No. 1640) . Two short 
notes show, however, that his interest in Defoe was 
active and continuing: an entry on the inside of the 
cover to his note book K, "To read Defoe's writings. 

25 Defoe, pp. 328-29. 

26 Defoe, pp. 328-29, pp. 402-03. 


An essay on his life and works in the European 
Magazine 1793. January and February," 27 and one from 
his diary of 1775 " The political history and modern 
history of the Devil contains here and there some 
very good humour and satire." 28 

The same diary, written during the second 
sojourn in England, also contains a critical 
appraisal of two plays by Samuel Foote (1720-77), and 
Lichtenberg was especially intrigued by one of them, 
The Devil upon two Sticks , which he saw on May 15th, 
1775. Though he regarded it as written without any 
plan, he admired the topical multi-directed satire of 
the play, especially that against the medical 
profession, which he found far more bitter than in 
Moliere. 29 The comedy is among three by Foote which 
Lichtenberg owned (No. 1773, 1773a, 1774). Loosely 
based on Alain-Rene LeSage's Le diable boiteux 
(1707), with its modernn devil, Foot's farce owed 
its exceptional success to its satiric attack on 
current affairs. 

Numerous similarities between LeSage's work and 
the Niqhtwatches were already noticed by Hermann 

27 Ed. Leitzmann, Aphorismen . Vol. 141, p. 141. 

28 Ed. Gumbert, Lichtenberg in England , Vol. I, 
p. 163. 

29 Ed. Gumbert, Lichtenberg in England . Vol. I, 
p. 145. 


Michel in 1904. 30 Above all they share the episodic 

structure for which unity is provided by a lame and 

physically ill favoured protagonist, and this is also 

the organizing arrangement in Foote's comedy. Few of 

the other features which the Niqhtwatches have in 

common with LeSage's menippea were, however, used by 

Foote, and Bonaventura must therefore have been 

acguainted with LeSage himself. 

Lichtenberg owned a bi-lingual edition of Gil 

Bias (NO. 1733), and he preferred this work, together 

with the Arabian Nights , Robinson Crusoe , and Tom 

Jones "a thousand times to the Messiah " by Klopstock 

(F 69) . Gil Bias features also in the observation: 

Robber's caves have already been used in fiction 
by Lucian, who is said to have in his turn taken 
them from an earlier source; Apuleius, Heliodor, 
Aristo, Spenser and Le Sage J 3 52. 

Written in early 1790 this note bears witness to 

Lichtenberg ' s interest in the latest romantic 

literary trends, as well as to his customary 

thoroughness in tracing all phenomena back to their 

origins as far as possible. This characteristic 

allows us to assume Lichtenberg' s familiarity with 

the serio-comic Le diable boiteux . in which Burton's 

themes of madness are combined with the Anatomy ' s 

Michel, pp. xvii-xviii. 


search for "perfect knowledge of human life," 31 while 
the devil appears as a polite man of the world with 
all the good manners Defoe credits to him. 

"In connection with the philosophical 
universalism of the menippea," Bakhtin perceives "a 
three-planed construction" where "action and dialogic 
syncrisis are transferred from earth to Olympus and 
to the nether world." He traces the "dialogues of 
the dead," which later became a special genre, to 
this tradition. 32 Graveyard-locations, as in LeSage, 
often fulfill this requirement, to which Burton 
responds only by numerous references to the devil and 
evil spirits throughout his work, but also by a 
special "Digression on the nature of Spirits, bad 
Angels, or Devils, and how they cause Melancholy." 33 
LeSage uses the more conventional graveyard scene of 
the menippea, where the hero is acquainted with the 
fate of the dead who repose there. 34 

From this menippean scenery and mood springs 
also the English graveyard poetry of which Edward 

31 Alain Rene Le Sage, Asmodeus or the Devil 
upon two Sticks . Tr. James Townsend (London: J. C. 
Nimmo and Bain, n.d.), Chapt. iii, p. 14. 

32 Bakhtin, Problems , p. 116. 

33 Burton, pp. 157-76. 

34 Le Sage, Chapt. xii: "Of the Tombs, the 
Ghosts, and Death," pp. 178 ff. 

Young and Thomas Gray (1716-71) were the principal 
representatives. Lichtenberg owned the second 
edition of Gray's Poems , London 1775 (No. 1648). In a 
letter to Eschenburg he discusses his problems in 
translating Gray's expression "moody madness" from 
"A Distant Prospect of Eton College", which he used 
for his description of Hogarth's Bedlam scene, Plate 
VIII of the Rake's Progress . 35 

Lichtenberg also owned Young's works, both in an 
English edition of 1757 and in Ebert's translation of 
1768-74 (Nos. 1673-74). The influence of the 
melancholy Night Thoughts on the Nightwatches has 
been freguently recognized, but Horst Fleig has shown 
that Bonaventura also refers to Young's satire "The 
Centaur not Fabulous." On the titleplate the centaur 
is shown dressed as a scaramouch from the commedia 
dell 'arte . He tramples with his hooves on the Ten 
Commandments, and flouts a streamer with the Greek 
words "gnothi seauton," know thyself. 

This unusual combination recurs in the Ninth 
Nightwatch, where Kreuzgang introduces, with a 
sarcastic dig at Lavater's physiognomy, his "own 
little fool's chamber," which contains "a bust of 
Socrates, by whose nose you recognize his wisdom, 
just as you recognize Scaramouch's folly." A satire 

35 Promies IV, p. 946, May 8, 1796. 


on "all three bread faculties" — those which could 
lead to wealth and honour — follows, where Kreuzgang 
proposes "wearing all three doctor's hats piled one 
on top of the other" (p. 155) . Fleig interprets this 
idea as inspired by the three tiers of the Chinese 
pagoda which rises behind the centaur. 36 The 
suggestion gains plausibility from Kreuzgang's 

What a surplus of wisdom and money — a desirable 
combination of the two opposed goods, a highest 
idealisation of the centaur nature in man, when 
the well satisfied animal below allows the 
higher rider to strut about audaciously . . . 

[sic], (p. 157). 

Not only are all the components of Young's title 

plate reworked into metaphors which define 

Kreuzgang's own existential position, he compresses 

also important thoughts from Young's satire into his 

short summary. "The Centaur not Fabulous" claims that 

centaurs are not myths, but an allegory of man with 

his lower half part of the animal world. The 

creature is therefore emblematic of the split nature 

of man, which is one of the characteristic themes of 

the menippea. Young's satirical use of the 

mythological hybrid is reminiscent of Burton's 

quotation of Martial. 

Fleig, Literarischer Vampirismus f pp. 232-35; 
p. 234, Fig. 10; text pp. 234-35. 


Burton's hope for improvement of the human 
condition lies in strict adherence to the Socratic 
advice "Know thyself." Young, like Burton, uses 
satire as a vehicle for advocating this command, 
which became a leitmotif of enlightened literature in 
England, and like Burton — and indeed the menippea in 
general — he took man as the subject of "The Centaur 
not Fabulous." 

Joseph Addison (1672-1719) also propagates the 
need of man to come to terms with himself. His 
formulation "The whole man must move together," was 
guoted by Lichtenberg various times and used as the 
motto of his notebook C, which he started on July 
27th, 1773. 37 Most important about Addison for our 
purpose, however, are his ties — guiet and implicit — 
to both Burton and Lichtenberg. Addison's Spectator 
influenced German literary life decisively. His 
moral, optimistic philosophy, based on Locke and 
Shaftesbury, satisfied the rationalistic age and 
directed the enlightened quest for progress. His 
elegant style improved literacy; the breadth of his 
topics aroused interest in learning. His wit and 
gentle satire assured him a large readership in 

Promies, Vol. I, p. 155. 


Germany, too, where the Spectator stimulated a large 
number of moralizing weeklies. 38 

Lichtenberg 's edition of the Spectator is the 
6th, London 1723, and of the eight volumes IV and V 
are missing (No. 39). Lord Boston's ex libris 
suggests that Lichtenberg received the work as a 
present from his host during his first visit to 
England. The Gottingischer Taschenkalender was 
written for a" similar section of the public as that 
addressed by Addison, and followed the pattern 
pioneered by him, including reports on the newest 
fashions for ladies. This deliberate lure accustomed 
new readers to the amusingly presented serious 
topics. Literacy was thereby spread and a 
responsible attitude to life was packaged into an 
attractive mixture of humour and irony, and for 
better understanding abstract themes were translated 
into anecdotal and parabolic narration. Lichtenberg 
followed Addison also in using literary criticism as 
a means of influencing and shaping public opinion. 

Addison's influence was extensive, and like that 
of Burton, it is not always easy to trace in 
particular cases, because he, too, dealt with topics 
of such diverse nature and based his discourses on so 

Price, English Literature in Germany , Chapt. 
iv, "The Moralizing Weeklies," pp. 51-60. 


many different sources. His special gift was the 
interpretation of current thoughts, and the 
explanation of problems through memorable similes. 
Where his themes can be paralleled with those of the 
Niqhtwatches f the connection confirms therefore their 
prominence in English eighteenth-century thought in 
general, rather than a direct link with the 
Spectator . 

Theatre metaphors and their origin in classical 

literature belong to this category. Addison quotes 

Epictetus among others: 

We are here (says he) as in a theatre, where 
every one has a part alotted to him. The great 
duty which lies upon a man is, to act his part 
in perfection. We may, indeed, say that our 
part does not suit us, and that we could act 
another better. But this (says the philosopher) 
is not our business. All that we are concerned 
in is, to excel in the part which is given us. 
If it is an improper one, the fault is not in 
us, but in Him, who has 'cast' our several 
parts, and is the great disposer of the drama. 39 

This is followed by a passage from "the little 

apocryphal book, entitled 'The Wisdom of Solomon', 11 

which exposes the vanity of human desire for longing 

and recognition, and says of "the righteous man . . . 

we fools accounted his life madness." 

Jy The Works of the Right Honourable Joseph 
Addison . Ed. H. G. Bohn, 6 Vols. (London: George Bell 
and Sons, 1888) Vol. Ill, Nr. 219, pp. 100-01. 

The parentheses show that Addison adopted 
Burton's method of distancing himself from his 
subject matter by allocating responsibility for it elsewhere. 


A later essay develops these thoughts. It 

starts with an explanation of Addison's technique: 

When I have finished any of my speculations, it 
is my method to consider which of the ancient 
authors have touched upon the subject that I 
treat of. By this means I meet with some 
celebrated thought upon it, or a thought of my 
own expressed in better words, or some 
similitude for the illustration of my 
subject. 40 

Both Lichtenberg and the author of the Nightwatches 
follow this enlightened procedure. They also share 
Addison's partiality for a belief in the 
transmigration of the soul, a theme which crops up 
frequently in the Spectator . The idea that "human 
souls, upon their leaving the body, become the soul 
of such kinds of brutes as they most resemble in 
their manners" is ascribed to Pythagoras' speech in 
the fifteenth book of Ovid, of which Addison quotes 
part in the translation by Dryden. In another essay 
this belief is traced to Sir Paul Rycaut's account of 
Mohamedans. While Addison treats the subject on this 
occasion with some good-natured humour, at other 
times he presents it more seriously as a "Platonic 
notion. " 41 

Twice Lichtenberg mentions his own belief in 
transmigration in connection with his early youth (F 

40 Addison, Vol. Ill, Nr. 221, p. 102. 

41 Addison, Vol. II, Nr. 211, p. 89, Nr. 343, p. 
335; Vol. II, Nr. 90, p. 406. 


1217, J 853). He contemplated this possibility all 
through adult life, and recorded at the end that he 
had given some account of his thoughts on 
metempsychosis in his notebook K, p. 18 and p. 24 (L 
958) . Unfortunately these pages have not survived. 
In E 474 Lichtenberg proposes to test his opinions on 
transmigration with Hartley's theories, in J 2043 
with Kant's philosophy. In A 91 he suggests the polyp 
as analogy to his idea of metempsychosis, and D 161 
gives a hint of his meaning, for there he speculates 
that man might be half spirit and half matter, just 
as the polyp is half animal and half plant. He adds: 
"the most interesting beings exist always at the 
borderline. " 

Transmigration is a rare theme in German 
literature, and the ninetheenth-century edition of 
Grimm's Worterbuch registers use of the word 
Seelenwanderung only in an essay by Herder in 
historical context, and twice by Jean Paul as a 
figure of speech. 42 But Bonaventura mentions it on 
various occasions, and his final chapter suggests the 
possibility that "the shapes of the decayed assume a 
kindlier form and blossom forth again as beautiful 
flowers" (p. 239) . A satirical variation of this 

Jacob und Wilhelm Grimm, Deutsches 
Worterbuch (Leipzig: S. Hirzel, 1854). 


vision is given when No. 10 and No. 11 in the lunatic 
asylum are presented as "evidence for metempsychosis; 
the first barks as a dog and formerly served at 
court; the second has changed himself from a state 
official into a wolf" (p. 155) . In the Twelfth 
Nightwatch Kreuzgang exclaims satirically: "If there 
is a transmigration of souls, which I do not doubt, 
and if the departed spirits, as would then not be 
improbable, travel just as easily into flowers and 
fruits, etc., as into animals — where then does this 
connecting canal of spirits reside other than in the 
stomach swallowing them" (p. 187) . 

The interrelation between body and soul, stomach 
and mind, leads back to Burton, whose "Digression of 
Spirits" already reports of spirits, "that they are 
the souls of men departed, the good and more noble 
were deified, the baser grovelled on the ground, or 
in the lower parts, and were devils." Burton also 
mentions a chain of beings which may link God and 
man, attributing to "Plato in Critias, and after him 
his followers" the opinion, that "spirits or devils 
were men's governors and keepers, our lords and 
masters, as we are of our cattle." 43 

Bonaventura's Mad Worldcreator in the Ninth 
Nightwatch is akin to these slightly lesser spirits: 

43 Burton, p. 158, p. 172. 


powerful but neither perfect nor omniscient. He is 
reminiscent of Lichtenberg's speculation that the 
world may be the work of a subaltern being, the 
experiment of one who was as yet unskilled and 
inexperienced, and that a chain of beings between man 
and God might be quite possible (K 69) . Johnson, in 
his "Review of [Soame Jenys], A Free Inquiry into the 
Nature and Origin of Evil , (1757)" calls this same 
concept "the Arabian scale of existence," 44 and he 
quotes Jenyns as asserting that "the supreme being . 

has created innumerable ranks and orders of 
beings." Man, according to this view, is on 
probation, preparing himself to join either the 
higher or the lower ranks. 

Johnson shared many themes with Addison, and his 
periodical essays follow the same precept of 
disseminating knowledge and perception through 
excellent and lucid writing. Addison's worldly-wise 
optimism and his enlightened confidence in progress 
are not shared by Johnson, whose passionate 
commitment to the concerns of the soul made him aware 
of the fragility of human achievement, and of the 
uncertainties of man's status after death. When he 

Samuel Johnson , "Review of [Soame Jenyns], 'A 
Free Inquiry into the Nature and Origin of Evil'," 
pp. 522-543, p. 543. 


wrote a Latin ode on the theme "Know Thyself" he 

confessed that 

turning to survey its territory, 

that night ' shadowed tundra, 

the mind is full of fear — of ghosts, 

of the fleeting glimmer 

of the thin shadows of nothing, 

the absence of shapes, the shimmer. 

What then am I to do? 

Let my declining years go down to the dark? 
Or get myself together, 
gather the last of my gall, 
and hurl myself at some task 
huge enough for a hero?" 45 

At the end of the Niqhtwatches Kreuzgang is similarly 

torn between the echoes of "Nothing" and the heroic 

urge to "go forth prepared to face the giant of the 

other world!" (p. 147). 

Like Burton, Lichtenberg, and Bonaventura, 

Johnson, too, appreciated the satires of both Horace- 

-from whom he translated several odes — and Juvenal. 

His two most famous poems are London, an imitation of 

Juvenal's third satire, and The Vanity of Human 

Wishes, an imitation of the tenth, in which themes 

from the scriptures, notably from Ecclesiasticus, are 

merged with the classic model. In London Juvenal's 

Rome is transposed into a contemporary setting, but 

both cities are only metonymic for the habitat of 

man, and merely provide the stage on which he commits 

his follies and his crimes. Together with the Lives 

Samuel Johnson , p. 539, p. 29. 
(Translated from the original Latin by John Wain) . 


of the Poets . Lichtenberg liked these two odes 
particularly among all the works of Johnson. 46 

Johnson's most popular Life was An Account of 
the Life of Mr Richard Savage, Son of the Earl Rivers 
(1774) . With its melodramatic storyline of scandal 
and tragedy, and the demasking perspectives on 
highest society and on life in the gutter, it was 
read in Germany more than any of Johnson's other 
works. Lichtenberg knew it already in 17 69, when he 
compares Savage to the German poet Johann Christian 
Gunther, whose hopes were similarly blighted. Both 
men, in his opinion, show that brilliance is often 
purchased with deficiency in talents which are taken 
for granted in the average population (A 116) . 

The Life of Savage is so strongly reflected in 
the Niqhtwatches that Karl-Heinz Meyer has recently 
proposed Johann Karl Wezel (1745-1819) , whose history 
shows striking parallels with that of Savage, as 
Bonaventura. 47 Johnson's Lives include others who 
epitomized the plight of the intellectual and 
idealist, a theme on which the menippea thrives and 
on which Burton had also much to say. The ill-fated 

46 Promies, Vol. IV, p. 513, Letter to Edmund 
von Harold, June 20, 1783. 

47 Karl-Heinz Meyer, "Johann Karl Wezel und die 
'Nachtwachen von Bonaventura'." Neues aus der Wezel- 
Forschung . Heft 2. Arbeitskreis Johann Karl Wezel des 
Kulturbundes der DDR, Sonderhausen , 1984, pp. 63-86. 


Thomas Otway and the suicide Thomas Chatterton belong 
to this group, and to Johnson himself, as to his 
friend Oliver Goldsmith, the poor poet in the garret 
was no mere literary convention, but a reality 
familiar from bitter experience. 

Johnson felt, and sometimes resisted the current 
interests of the enlightenment to such a degree that 
his time is known in England as the Age of Johnson. 
Similarities between themes and concerns in the 
Niqhtwatches and Johnson's single excursion into 
fiction, The History of Rasselas, Prince of Abyssinia 
(1759) , need therefore prove no more than that both 
authors share an intellectual background. Johnson 
compressed much of his philosophy into this short 
"oriental tale," which he wrote according to Boswell 
"in the evenings of one week" under the shadow of his 
mother's death, "that with the profits he might 
defray the expense of his mother's funeral, and pay 
some little debts which she had left." Though the 
deeply religious Johnson omitted all direct reference 
to Christian belief, Boswell insists that "Johnson 
meant, by showing the unsatisfactory nature of things 
temporal, to direct the hopes of man to things 
eternal." 48 Lichtenberg, always keenly interested in 

Boswell, pp. 240 and 424. 


Samuel Johnson's work and thoughts, read Boswell's 
Life hot from the press in 1791. 49 

In structure, philosophical content, and length 
the Niqhtwatches have much in common with Rasselas. 
Both present loosely connected episodes. Actions in 
both tales may be violent, as the kidnapping in 
Rasselas (Chapt. xxxiii) or a nun's murder in the 
Niqhtwatches . They are, however, not reported 
spontaneously but reach the reader already filtered 
through an active mind. Like Johnson's prince, 
Kreuzgang is driven by a constant hunger of 
imagination; and both recognize the paradox which 
disturbed the minds during the enlightenment — that 
the human spirit cannot find happiness without 
something to desire, yet can never be satisfied until 
everything longed for is within its reach. Both 
works deal with attitudes toward death and dying, and 
both end with "nothing," a word which has been 
skillfully woven into each text with differing 
techniques and subtly changing shades of meaning. 
Johnson ends his tale with "The Conclusion, in which 
Nothing is Concluded." The prince and his party 
return from whence they came, because "of these 

The Life of Samuel Johnson was published in 2 
volumes in London 1791. Lichtenberg began reading on 
September 17, 1791, see "Diary," Promies, Vol. II, p. 


wishes that they had formed they well knew that none 

could be obtained" (Chapt. xlix) . 

The madness which satiric tradition couples with 

excessive speculative learning is introduced by 

Johnson in the digression "The History of a Man of 

Learning" (Chapts. xl-xliv) . Burton provides the 

classic origins of the delusions from which Johnson's 

mad astronomer, the hero of this interlude, suffers. 

He quotes "Leonartus Fuchsius, Felix Plater, and 

Hercules de Saxonia" who "speak of a peculiar fury , 

which comes by overmuch study. Fernelius puts study . 

contemplation, and continual meditation, as an 

especial cause of madness ... so doth Levinus 

Lemnius. Many men (saith he) come to this malady by 

continual study, and night-walking, and, of all other 

men, scholars are most subjects to it ." As 

Democritus Jr., he has already told his readers: 

If any man shall ask . . . who I am, that so 
boldly censure others, have I no faults? Yes, 
more than thou hast, whatsoever thou art. We are 
the merest ciphers, I confess it again, I am as 
foolish, as mad as any one. 

I seem to you insane, I pray you think so 


I do not deny it, let the mad men be removed 
from the people. My comfort is, I have more 
fellows, and those of excellent note. 

When Burton's satiric persona Democritus 

concludes, "that all the world is melancholy, or mad, 

dotes, and every member of it," he presents himself 

at the same time humbly as an average representative 


of all mankind, and proudly as a thinker who follows 
the example of the greatest, such as Socrates. 50 
Kreuzgang repeats this menippean pattern which was 
followed by the English eighteenth-century satirists, 
notably Swift and the Scriblerians . 

Burton, p. 101. 


JONATHAN SWIFT (1667-1745) 

References to the body and its functions in the 
Nightwatches are mild compared to eighteenth-century 
English usage, which in many instances showed hardly 
a break with the lively language of Renaissance and 
Jacobean drama or the racy realism of Burton, but 
they irritated the sensibilites of nineteenth-century 
readers conditioned by the abstract refinement of 
German idealism and unused to bluntness in serious 
literature. English satirists of the eighteenth 
century employed such language freguently, and none 
more than Jonathan Swift, the erudite and respected 
Dean of St. Patrick's, Dublin. 

Lichtenberg learned to admire Swift's dazzling 
irony, his hard-hitting wit and the command of 
rhetorical rules with which he achieved the apparent 
ease of his expression, although his first notebook 
entry about the Dean is somewhat disparaging, and he 
even calls him a fool in it. Significantly, the 
excerpt from Swift which follows this remark is a 



lampoon of the efforts to establish the longitude, 

and exposes the Dean's want of empathy with 

scientific achievements (B 43) . The frequent attacks 

of Swift and his circle on scientists, and in 

particular on the Royal Society and the interest the 

Hanoverian Kings took in it, were not likely to meet 

with Lichtenberg's approval. 1 But Swift's 

penetrating wit and the compelling logic of his 

satire soon won Lichtenberg's praise, as two further 

notes immediately testify. The first is an epigram 

translated by Swift from the French which deals with 

the satiric theme of fools and madmen: 

Sir, I admit Your gen'ral rule 
That every poet is a fool, 
But You Yourself may serve to show it 
That every fool is not a poet. B 44 

The next entry already contains high approbation, and 

sets Swift up as an example for satirists, praising 

in particular the general applicability of his 

thoughts, B 45. 

- 1 Jonathan Swift. "Ode for Musick, on 
Longitude: " 

The Longitude mist on / By wicked Will Whiston, 
And not better hit on / By good Mr. Ditton. 
So Ditton and Whiston / May both be bepist on 
And Whiston and Ditton / May both be beshit on 


While not representative of Swift at his best, the 
rhyme — copied by Lichtenberg in B 43 — exemplifies 
Swift's prejudices and misapprehensions about the 
importance of contemporary scientific work, as well 
as his uninhibited use of language. 


Lichtenberg owned the works of Jonathan Swift, 
London 1766-79, 24 volumes, and a German translation 
of the Tale of a Tub (No. 1758-59) . No. 1300 in 
Bibliotheca Lichtenbergiana is a German translation 
of Swift's satirical treatise "An Argument to Prove 
that the Abolishing of Christianity in England May, 
as Things now Stand, be Attended with Some 
Inconveniences, and Perhaps Not Produce Those Many 
Good Effects Proposed Thereby" (1708) , but as this 
title is usually abbreviated, Swift has not been 
identified as the author. 

As late as 1798 Lichtenberg published in his 
Taschen kalender a list of oddities amassed by an 
English collector which he had found in 1775 in the 
library of an English country house on the back 
leaves of a volume of Swift's collected works. The 
items, written down "in the manner of Swift," 
positively invite satiric comment and include such 
treasures as "a knife without blade and the handle 
missing," and a butter dish in the form of a skull 
with a lid so tastefully fashioned that the butter is 
pressed into the shape of a human brain. 2 Some 
bottles of "Iceland-Madeira" Lichtenberg adapted to 
German understanding as "Lappland wine from 48," 

2 Promies, Vol. Ill, pp. 451 ff., p. 452, and 
Kommentar zu Band III f pp. 212-15. 


using "Lappland" as an antonym for "fresh, active and 
lively" exactly as Bonaventura does in the Third 
Nightwatch, when he describes the old judge "buried 
in piles of documents like a Lapplander interred 
alive" (p. 51) . The dried out old man is signing 
death warrants and pouring over legal tomes, one the 
Peinliche Halsordnung , which Lichtenberg chose to 
translate the English Habeas Corpus Act in the list 
of items "in the manner of Swift." This weighty 
legal code had been set to music by the eccentric 
collector himself. 3 

The list of oddities testifies to Lichtenberg's 
habit of browsing through Swift's works and to his 
empathy with Swift's brand of humor. His collected 
notes show that he read, reread and thought about 
Swift's work, especially Gulliver's Travels and A 
Tale of a Tub . 4 How much his own sure-aimed irony 
and masterly satiric techniques owed to Swift's 
exacting example has not yet been sufficiently 

Richard M. Meyer, who contributed considerably 
to the revival of interest in Lichtenberg, published 
his small volume Jonathan Swift und Georg Christoph 

3 Promies, Vol. Ill, p. 456. 

4 See D 214, D 666, RA 72, L 431; Ed. Joost, 
Briefwechsel , Vol. I, Nos. 69, 131, 609. 


Lichtenberg , zwei Satiriker des 18. Jahrhunderts 
(1886) without drawing any lines of contact between 
his two separate essays. Only once does he mention 
in passing that Lichtenberg ' s satirical base 
corresponds considerably to that of Swift, but in the 
same sentence he also points out fundamental 
differences between the two authors. As Meyer had to 
base his opinions on the selected writings published 
posthumously by Lichtenberg' s family, this is hardly 
surprising. 5 Even Franz H. Mautner mentions only 
casually in his extensive study on the development of 
Lichtenberg' s thoughts that irony was a natural way 
for Lichtenberg to express himself, and that Liscow — 
a German satirist much admired in his time — and Swift 
were the two models for his satirical work. 6 This 
statement is not further elaborated and Mautner 
hardly mentions Swift at all. 

A different assessment of Swift's influence on 
Lichtenberg begins to emerge from the commentaries 
which Wolfgang Promies compiled for the assorted 
writings contained in Volume III of his comprehensive 
Lichtenberg edition. Meyer lacked this material, yet 

5 Richard M. Meyer, Jonathan Swift und Geora 
Christ oph Lichtenberg, zwei Satiriker des 18. 
Jahrhunderts (Berlin, 1886), pp. 81-82. 

6 Mautner, Lichtenberg. Geschichte seines 
Geistes, p. 86. Christian Ludwig Liscow (1701-60) was 
himself much influenced by Swift. 


his simultaneous fascination with Swift and 
Lichtenberg shows that he sensed an affinity in their 
outlook and techniques. Meyer was also among the 
first literary critics who studied the Niqhtwatches . 
and the first to draw a line from them to 
Lichtenberg, for he declared that the author seems to 
have been familiar with Lichtenberg 's brief satire 
"Petition from the Lunatic Asylum" (E 245, E 58). 

This short piece lampoons contemporary German 
writing, and in particular uses the exuberant and 
ungrammatical elliptical style of Lavater. It is 
phrased as a request for a library, and only the 
title indicates that the plea emanates from madmen. 
The title is therefore an integral part of the 
satiric structure, as it contains the only indication 
of how the letter must be understood. Title and 
letter are, of course, in German, but the petition is 
addressed in English to "My Lords," showing the 
strong English background against which Lichtenberg 
developed and perfected his own satirical genius. 
This connection surfaces everywhere in his work, and 
Meyer therefore described him as someone who felt in 
German and thought in English. 7 

Lichtenberg' s consistent opposition to Lavater 's 
intuitive, effusive, and experimentally unsupported 

7 Meyer, p. 72. 


physiognomy sprang from his own support of the 
English empirical method, and from his wish to 
understand man and his true nature — which also 
inspired the unmasking stratagems of the English 
satirists. These techniques appealed strongly to 
Lichtenberg's own satiric inclinations, and his 
implacable antagonism toward Lavater's simplistic 
parlor-game physiognomy originated from the same 
considerations as Swift's relentless fight against 
all absuses of the intellect. 

To Lichtenberg, as to the English writers he 
admired, the face was not an open book, but a mask 
behind which the well-disciplined and better educated 
attempted to conceal their true nature. Thus he 
calls the effects of a too normative education a 
"copper mask" which is forced on children (D 19) , and 
sees some people hide beneath a "mask of fat," a 
substance which is acquired and therefore a true part 
neither of body nor soul (E 172) . He was convinced 
that "reading from the surface is the cause of our 
erroneous ideas, and in some respects of our total 
ignorance." 8 Unmasking in all its various forms was 
therefore a major concern to him. 

Promies, Vol. Ill, "uber Physiognomik; wider 
die Physiognomen, " pp. 2 56-9 5, p. 2 65. 


Tearing off disguises and stripping away 
pretences is a traditional task of the satirist, and 
Swift pursued it persistently. The brutal Yahoos 
whom Gulliver met on his last voyage are an example 
of this zeal in its most uncompromising form. 
Deprived of clothes and all the finery of 
civilisation, these creatures appear lower than 
animals. 9 A different unmasking of human pretensions 
is accomplished through the pathetic struldbruggs, 
whom Gulliver encounters in the Kingdom of Luggnagg, 
where they are born without the ability to die. As 
they lose their youth, strength and possessions, they 
turn the dream of immortality into a nightmare, and 
expose human limitations in an unflattering and 
brutally realistic manner. 10 

The Niqhtwatches . too, treat immortality as a 
challenge which mankind is ill eguipped to meet. When 
it falls to the lot of the stranger in the cloak, he 
uses his interminable existence paradoxically only 
for repeated suicide attempts. Kreuzgang's desperate 
but futile efforts to imagine how man can measure up 
to eternity transpose man's inability to deal with 
infinity onto a higher level, and meet Bakhtin's 

9 Gulliver 's Travels . Part IV: "Voyage to the 
Country of the Houyhnhnms . " 

10 Gulliver's Travels . Part III, Chapt. x. 


menippean requirement for a three planed 
construction, where the action ranges from earth to 
heaven and hell. 11 

In Gullivers Travels , Book III conforms closest 
to the characteristics which Bakhtin noted in the 
menippea. While the Olympian dimension is introduced 
by the novelty of an island floating in the sky, the 
nether-world is represented by a visit to 
Glubbdubbdrib, the Island of Sorcerers and Magicians. 
There the Governor has the power "of calling whom he 
pleaseth from the dead, and commanding their services 
for twenty-four hours but no longer." By this magic 
he calls the spirits of various illustrious men, and 
even of whole dynasties for Gulliver's instruction, 
among them Alexander the Great, who assured Gulliver 
"upon his honor, that he was not poisoned, but died 
of a fever by excessive drinking." No comment is 
added or needed, apart from Gulliver's explication: 
"one thing I might depend upon, that they would 
certainly tell me truth, for lying was a talent of no 
use in the lower world." This almost casual aside 
is all the guidance the reader is given through a 
pageant of merciless unmasking, for neither Gulliver, 
nor the Glubbdubbdribian sorcerers, nor yet the 
author provides any explanation. 

11 Bakhtin, Problems, p. 116. 


The art of manipulating the reader into framing 
and answering guestions for himself, and the skill of 
compressing a maximum of meaning into a minimum of 
words are brilliantly displayed in this interlude. 
Take for one example Gulliver's report: "Next I saw 
Hannibal passing the Alps, who told me he had not a 
drop of vinegar in his camp." 12 The modern reader, 
unfamiliar with the details of Livy's History of 
Rome, needs to be told that according to Livy, 
Hannibal succeeded in crossing the Alps by building a 
fire on an impass and saturating it with vinegar. 
Instant recall of such learned details was never 
common, and Swift's aside is all too easily 
attributed to exuberant imagination. Many remarks by 
Lichtenberg and Bonaventura, based on reading which 
is not generaly accessible, share this fate. 
Once this is understood, one short 
sentence not only demolishes the myth-building of 
hero-worshipping historians, but also exposes the 
staggering credulity of succeeding generations who 
failed to guery how the prodigious amounts of vinegar 
reguired for the success of such an engineering feat 
should have been procured amidst the hardships of an 
Alpine winter. Thus, while the reader is still 

12 Gulliver's Travels . Part III, Chapt. ix-xi, 
"Gulliver in the Kingdom of Luggnagg." Chapt. vii- 
viii, pp. 190, 192, 191, 192. 


laughing at Livy's credulity, he is suddenly 
confronted with his own thoughtless acceptance of 
tradition. In his aphorisms Lichtenberg strove to 
achieve the same economy of language. Swift's aim in 
briefly bringing the famous dead to life was, as he 
puts it in A Tale of a Tub , to furnish "a plain 
instance how little truth there often is in general 
surmises. " 

Swift himself was well aware that many of his 

allusions would not be generally accessible, and he 

says as much in "On Poetry: A Rhapsody" (1733) : 

To statesmen would you give a wipe 

You print it in italic type. 

When letters are in vulgar shapes 

'tis ten to one the Wit escapes; 

But when in capitals expressed 

The dullest reader smokes the jest. 13 

Among those who did appreciate Swift's 

virtuosity and his skill in manipulating references 

was Lichtenberg. He, too, aimed for brevity in 

expression, and he knew that he faced the same 

problem of being misunderstood. In E 257 he 

discourses on the depth of thought in classical 

writers and exemplifies his plea for multifarious 

meaning by showing that it is not necessary for 

everybody to understand everything, as long as all 

1J Gulliver's Travels et al. ; "A Tale of a Tub," 
pp. 279-394, p. 283; "Swift's Poems," pp. 506-35, p. 


derive some benefit from what they read. Thus the 
moon delights, in different ways, the astronomer, the 
wanderer at night and the babe in arms who sees a 
silver ball. Though unegual in their powers of 
understanding, each person is satisfied by the same 

Never content with passive admiration, 
Lichtenberg strove to assimilate and adapt the 
technigues which impressed him. Even though he 
himself shared the concerns of the Royal Society, and 
even though the experiments in astronomy, 
mathematics, and mechanics ridiculed in Book III of 
Gulliver were connected with his own research, he 
could appreciate Swift's brilliance, and the 
sophistication of his satire. Bonaventura parallels 
this attitude. While he deftly employs Swift's 
satiric technigues, he also incorporated the 
scientific insights of the eighteenth century into 
his work. 

Swift's influence is especially noticeable in 
Lichtenberg' s early satiric sketches and fragments, 
before he encountered the storms of criticism which 
were raised by the acerbic manner of Swift. Though 
much admired in its English context, Swift's scathing 
raillery was not appreciated when transposed into the 
German environment, where petty courts and 


regulations, general supervision and censorship, 
stifled all criticism of public affairs. These 
constrictions may be one reason why many of 
Lichtenberg's planned satires never progressed beyond 
outlines and disconnected notes. 

The earliest of these fragments was probably 
written in 1768 or shortly after, and consists merely 
of a two-page "Introduction by the Translator" for a 
work to be called Lorenz Eschenheimers empfindsame 
Reise nach Laputa ." 14 Both the title and the 
reference to the translator show clearly that 
Lichtenberg was consciously working in the tradition 
of English eighteenth-century satire, in particular 
that of Swift and Sterne, for "empfindsame Reise" is 
the German for "sentimental journey," and the voyage 
to Laputa starts Part III of Gulliver . 

Much of the general plan can be surmised by the 

many literary allusions in the full title, and it is 

further outlined in the opening sentence: 

Educated society has regretted for a long time 
and with good reason that the famed Lemuel 
Gulliver has not made more strenuous efforts 
during his visits to Laputa and Lagado to 

14 Promies, Vol. Ill, pp. 610-11, and Kommentar 

zu Band III . pp. 2 9 2 -9 3 ." Lorenz Eschenheimers 

empfindsame Reise nach Laputa. Schreiben des Herrn 
x 3 + dx 5 ddy Trullrub, Altesten der Akademie zu 
Lagado, das Empfindsame im Reisen zu Wasser und zu 
Lande und im zu Hause sitzen betreffend. Aus dem 
Hochbalnibarischen iibersetzt von M. S." 


arrange a link between the Academy there and one 
in Europe. 

Gulliver's third journey was even less popular in 
Germany than in England. Not many were able to 
decode the allusions and implications of this 
menippean excursion into fantasy, and comparatively 
few were familiar with this part of Gulliver's 
adventures, which was more often than not left out of 
translations altogether. Lichtenberg's fragment 
refers to Gulliver's promise to one of the scientists 
in the Academy of Lagado, "if ever I had the good 
fortune to return to my native country, that I would 
do him justice" (Part III, Chapt.v) . 

The subtitle gives further clues in condensed 
form. It announces that the work is a "Manuscript of 
x 3 + dx 5 ddy Trullrub, Esg. , senior of the Academy of 
Lagado, concerning Sentimental Journeys across Oceans 
and Continents and while Staying at Home. Translated 
from the Highbalnibaric by M. S . " One must recall 
Gulliver's experience, especially in Chapter v, in 
order to read any meaning into these words. 
Lichtenberg demonstrates here the high demands he 
makes of his readers, from whom he expects 
familiarity with great authors in considerable 
detail . 

The initials M. S. have not been decoded, but 
probably stand for Martinus Scriblerus, for the 


satire uses Swift's territory of Laputa and 
Balnibari. Even the short exposition makes it quite 
clear, however, that though Lichtenberg appropriates 
Swift's methods — especially his technique of 
manipulating double meaning and linguisitc 
ambiguities — he intended to pursue his own original 
ideas, and to draw on a variety of sources. 15 The 
ending ". . . ddy" is not German and is therefore a 
further indication of English inspiration. The root 
signs are explained by the translator as indicating 
moral or abstract meaning for the word they precede, 
the root power changes the meaning from, for example, 
Zorr, a nice and virtuous woman to Zorr 2 , a whore, 
or from molom, a scholar to molom 2 a windbag. This 
explanation leaves the reader to deduce the 
significance of 3 and 5 . To add to the multiplicity 
of meanings, the fictitious translator claims to have 

The subtitle is an instance of Lichtenberg's 
technique of blending different sources, for which 
Bonaventura also shows a particular predilection. It 
acknowledges not only indebtedness to English models, 
but also to a brilliant German satirist, Christian 
Reuter (1665-after 1702) who wrote a Journal of 
Schelmuf fkv's Curious and very Dangerous Journeys 
Across Oceans and Continents which lampoons the 
pretensions of both those who go on Grand Tours, and 
those who have to stay at home, and make up for their 
lack of experience by lively imagination. 
Christian Reuter. Schelmuf fskvs wahrhaftiqe curiose 
und sehr gefahrliche Reisebeschreibung zu Wasser und 
Lande. Stuttgart: Philipp Reclam Jun. , 1977. First 
printed in 1696 in the fictitious town of Schelmrode 
under the pretence that Schelmuf f sky was the author, 
and the editor was a certain E. S. 


obtained the manuscript with considerable trouble 
from a Dutch herring-fisher. The information seems 
arbitrary and gratuitous unless one remembers 
Gulliver's enemy, a Dutchman and "malicious 
reprobate," who caused him to "be set adrift in a 
small canoe," thereby initiating his adventures in 
Part III. Ambiguity is achieved by the fact that 
Gulliver himself travelled for some time in the guise 
of a Dutchman, or as he himself says "a Hollander, 
because my intentions were for Japan, and I knew the 
Dutch were the only Europeans permitted to enter into 
that kingdom." 16 The herring fisher with the 
manuscript could therefore be the disguised Gulliver 
himself or else his implacable enemy, which invites 
two completely opposed interpretations of the pages 
which have been thus obtained. Not content with 
these complications, the translator archly explains 
that he himself could only understand the meaning 
with greatest difficulty thanks to his knowledge of 
Japanese to which the Balnibaric language shows 
certain affinities. 

The short fragment proves that Lichtenberg had 
thought about Swift's satire and its implications in 
considerable detail, that he made skillful use of 

16 Gulliver's Travels . Part III, Chapt. i, 
Chapt. ix, pp. 198-99. 


Swift's techniques, and that he equalled if not 
surpassed Swift in demands on the reader's own 
initiative and erudition. It also demonstrates 
Lichtenberg' s gift for compressing complicated 
thoughts by frequent and deliberate use of allusions 
and associations. 

Leibniz and his vision of mechanisation and a 
universal language Swift ridicules by having Gulliver 
inspect an engine at the Grand Academy of Lagado 
(Chapt.v) , "so contrived, that the words shifted into 
new places, as the square bits of wood moved upside 
down." 17 Lichtenberg held a very different opinion 
of this philosopher, whose works he owned in the 
original Latin (Nos. 427, 1345 -49). He studied them 
with interest and approval (A 12), and was led by 
them to acquire the habit of analysing his own ideas 
and their origin as far as humanly possible. 
Nevertheless he used the mechanical engine, with 
which Swift ridiculed Leibniz and his attempts to 
define a universal language, in his satiric 
fragments. This so-called Kurbelmethode occurs also 
in an outline for a satire on mindlessness , which was 

17 Gullivers Travels . Part III, Chapt. v, 
pp. 180-84. 


printed posthumously but cannot be dated, as no 
manuscript has survived. 18 

Just before Gulliver is introduced to the 
professor of "speculative learning" who invented the 
language machine, the very one to whom he promised to 
do justice if ever he returned to his native land, "a 
man born blind" is pointed out to him, "who had 
several apprentices in his own condition: their 
employment was to mix colours for painters, which 
their master taught them to distinguish by feeling 
and smelling." The endeavor may appear ludicrous, 
especially when reported in Swift's sardonic matter- 
of-fact manner. Similar experiments were, however, 
actually carried out, especially by Robert Boyle 
(1627-1691) , with whose works Lichtenberg was, of 
course, familiar (Nos. 190-92, 724, 816). Boyle was 
motivated by the same considerations which later 
turned Locke's attention to people born blind, for by 
their reactions it was hoped to learn more about the 
mechanism of the human mind, and how far its imagery 
is acquired through the senses. 

1B Promies, Vol. Ill, p. 613. This short 
fragment is called "Beitrage zur Geschichte des ***." 
The title, "Contributions to the History of ***," 
points to Fielding's influence and is further proof 
of Lichtenberg ' s habit tendency to blend and 
superimpose intellectual experiences which were of 
special importance to him. 


Lichtenberg's interest in blindness is shown by 
various notes. They are brief unemotional references 
to a medical case, or to a learned publication, which 
reveal detached scientific concern with the 
problem. 19 This he extended also to the reactions of 
those born deaf, both human beings and animals, 
asking himself: "Are there examples of animals born 
deaf? Deaf dogs can hardly be expected to be mute" 
(K 415) . How far the senses were dependent on each 
other and on environmental stimuli, was one of the 
questions which eighteenth-century science tried to 
elucidate, and it was hoped that those born without 
one or more of the senses could provide, or at least 
advance the answers. Bonaventura transposes this 
scientific concern into existential dimensions, and 
consistently likens the lot of mankind in general to 
someone born blind into an environment in which he 
cannot orientate himself properly, and compares the 
few who begin to perceive more clearly with Homer, 
Oedipus and Ugolino, who have been blinded by 
unbearable sights. 

In his later satires Lichtenberg continued to 
practice complex techniques, but he concealed his 
methods and sources much more than in the Empf indsame 
Reise n ach Laputa . The fragment was only published 

19 See D 296, D 395, D 639, D 641, F 1209, J 1664. 


posthumously, and he did not pursue the ideas in it 
any further. Whether he ever intended to do so is 
not clear. In a survey of the various satirical 
plans which Lichtenberg never expanded, Gerhard 
Sauder suggests that the undemarcated contours of 
such fragments serve in themselves as special devices 
to stimulate the imagination, and are a pointer to 
the open-endedness and fluidity of truth as such. 20 

Lichtenberg' s satiric plans, like Swift's 
fictitious titles, serve to suggest a certain train 
of thought, but leave it to the reader's imagination 
to supply the probable contents of the non-existent 
book. 21 The method has the advantage of introducing 
the outrageous without actually mentioning anything 
indecorous. It serves also to include a wide range 
of other thoughts with the utmost economy of 
expression. The same end is served by Bonaventura ' s 
version of a non-existent work — the rejected Tragedy 
Man which Kreuzgang finds in the garret where the 
poor poet committed suicide. Only the "Prologue by 
the Clown" is quoted (p. 137) ; the tragedy itself 
having to be imagined by the reader. Like Gulliver, 

20 Gerhard Sauder, "Lichtenbergs ungeschriebene 
Romane." Photorin . I, 1979, pp. 3-14, p. 13. 

21 e.g. Gulliver's Travels et al ; 11 A Tale of a 
Tub," p. 278: "Treatises wrote by the same Author, 
most of them mentioned in the following Discourses, 
which will be speedily published ..." 


having to be imagined by the reader. Like Gulliver, 
and the Hack in the Tale of a Tub , the Clown is by no 
means identical with the author, but provides the 
perspective for the Prologue. This is also the case 
with Photorin, the satiric persona to whom 
Lichtenberg attributed his first, anonymously 
published satire Timorus (1773). 22 Lichtenberg also 
employed fictitious titles and supported his satiric 
arguments, like Swift, by the authority of non- 
existent learned volumes. 23 In Timorus he bases his 
case on ancient legal records of his own invention. 

While some of Lichtenberg 's satirical fragments 
might have been written merely to highlight and 
outline a problem, others show clearly that he had a 
longer and more coherent satire in mind. To this 
group belongs a short unfinished piece simply 
entitled "Christopher Seng," and several entries in 
Notebook B which are connected with it. 24 The brief 

22 Promies, Vol. Ill, pp. 205-36. 

23 Gullivers Travels et al. , pp. 349, and 390. 

24 Promies, Vol. Ill, pp. 608-609. See also B 
319, B 320, and a fragmentary preface in B 321, which 
does not specifically refer to "Christoph Seng," but 
seems to belong to the general conception behind it, 
and concentrates on a thought which foreshadows the 
Sixth Nightwatch, both in the wish: "could I cry out 
aloud and my words had the penetration of the trumpet 
on the Day of Judgment," and in the conclusion, that 
though thousands would hear, few if any would 


synopsis of less than a page and a half takes 
Christopher Seng to the university, involves him in 
theology, law and mathematics, brings him into 
contact with high society as tutor to a nobleman's 
son, and with low life when he works as a sailor, 
then a soldier, then a small shopkeeeper. The 
outline does not follow the ascending development of 
the Bildunqsroman , with its pattern of ever widening 
circles of perception, and the ending which 
reconciles the hero with his fate, and offers him 
meaning in life. 

Christopher Seng is endowed from the beginning 
with insights that are deeper, and feelings that are 
more responsive and rational than those of others, 
and like Kreuzgang he has to pay for these gifts with 
increasing alienation from his fellow men. Various 
other themes from the Nightwatches are also 
interwoven: Christopher loses his reason due to an 
unhappy love affair, but recovers to take on a new 
but humble position. Like Kreuzgang he forfeits his 
job by arguing against public opinion; he defends a 
peasant accused of adultery, but the mob, which pays 
ardent lip service to Christian doctrine, cannot 
follow Christ's example. 

Exposition of the plot is followed by two 
succinct character sketches. In the first and more 


extended one, Christopher Seng's thoughts and 
feelings are likened to two persons who have nothing 
to do with each other. What Bakhtin sees first 
manifested in the menippea, and calls "moral- 
physiological experimentation: a representation of 
the unusual, abnormal, moral and psychic states of 
man — insanity of all sorts (the theme of the maniac) , 
split personality," 25 turned for Lichtenberg into a 
life-long preoccupation with duality. 26 For him, in 
the tradition of the enlightenment, these mental 
states were not abnormal, but merely extreme 
manifestations of the human condition, which could be 
studied with their help as if observed through a 
magnifying glass. 

Christoph was Lichtenberg' s own Christian name, 
and the complicated personality exhibits unmistakable 
traits of himself. Seng is not a common family name, 
but the stem of the verb sengen: to singe, scorch, 
burn. Thus the name indicates that the work was not 
intended as a novel, but a satire. Lichtenberg 
himself suggests this interpretation. He coupled the 
word sencren with Swift when he admonished aspiring 

25 Bakhtin, Problems, p. 116. 

26 Albert Schneider, "Le Double Prince. Un 
important emprunt de E. T. A. Hoffmann a G. C. 
Lichtenberg." Annales Universitatis Saraviensis . 
Lettres, Sarrebruck, IV, 1953, pp. 292-99. 


German writers who were simply copying the 
idiosyncrasies of famous men without understanding 
their craft or their intentions. While Bonaventura 
ridicules the poet who is content with "Kant's nose, 
Goethe's eyes, Lessing's forehead, Schiller's mouth 
and the backside of several famous men" (p. 179) , 
Lichtenberg delivers the same message rather more 

Do you imagine you would earn any thanks by 
writing, for instance, in synoptic sentences, by 
swearing and reviling like Shakespeare, 
playing the lyre like Sterne, singeing and 
burning like Swift, or playing the trumpet like 
Pindar? I am not saying that really writing 
like Shakespeare, Sterne, Swift and Pindar would 
fail to have any effect; in that case you might 
move an honest soul here and there, but just to 
swear and revile, play the lyre, singe and burn 
will achieve nothing. (D 610) 

Swift and his islands in Book III of Gulliver 

also inspired Lichtenberg 's plan of a satire on "The 

Island Zezu." 27 Notes to this purpose are jotted 

down without coherence, but their organizing 

principle is revealed by the first sentence: 

The reason why this island has been left 
unrecorded for so long is that the strange 
customs of the inhabitants suggested to 
publishers everywhere that a description of it 
would really be a satire on their own country. I 
was well aware that there are parts of the body 
of which one does not like to write. But that 
there are such countries, who would have thought 
that? (D 78) 

D 78, 82, 86, 116, 136, 152, 165, 166, 181. 


Lichtenberg goes on to describe an academy of 
sciences that recalls Swift's learned institution in 
Lagado, and here as there the operator of a 
mechanical device is distinguished by the title 
professor. Automation is equated with mindless 
copying, and this theme is developed through highly 
sophisticated puppets — robots in modern language. 
Their creators lived in ages long past, and though 
they are universally revered, nobody has ever thought 
of preserving their knowledge or studying their 
methods (D 116) . Thus the puppet-imagery relates to 
the eighteeenth-century controversy of ancients 
versus moderns, with which Swift deals in his Battle 
of the Books . 

The puppet theme connects D 116 with the 
Nightwatches . and so does an abrupt remark that is 
not explained any further: "At funerals, 
nightwatchmen. " 28 Another concurrent theme is the 
odeum of Pericles, which the good people of Zezu had 
erected on a mountain half a mile outside their town. 
This was filled with statues, and learned professors 
could dress these up as their adversaries and rage 
against them if they felt inclined to fight (D 181) . 
In the Nightwatches the "invalid's home of immortal 

Promies, Vol. I, p. 248: "Bei 
Leichenbegangnissen, Nachtwachter . 11 


gods" is a similar odeum placed likewise just outside 

town (p. 191 and 193) . The problem of suicide, never 

far from Lichtenberg' s mind, was also to be discussed 

in the proposed satire (D 165) , as were the 

irreconcilable demands of body and mind: 

The preface could start with bread and 
immortality, the two focal points towards which 
the mind gravitates with its satellite the body, 
or the body with its satellite, the mind. 

(D 166) 

The paradoxical duality of these conflicting 
motivations is also a leitmotif of the Nightwatches . 
But while Swift, with the accent on the body, 
envisages the struldbruggs , who cannot die and remain 
tied to a deteriorating physical presence in 
perpetuity, Bonaventura transfers this "dreadful 
prospect of never dying" (p. 206) into spiritual 
spheres and equates immortality with eternity. 

The significance of "Zezu" is not explained. 
Though the word looks outlandish, it might, however, 
just be the phonetical rendering of the German 
command seh / zu : observe, look out. In a note on 
Zezuan history Lichtenberg declares that satires are 
not only legal on the island, but positively 
encouraged, provided that nobody is attacked who 
lived after the Great Flood, and even of those who 
were active before this time a good six or seven must 
be exempted from any criticism (D 86) . This 


persiflage of German censorship provides some 
probable reasons why Lichtenberg abandoned so many of 
his literary plans. 

Not all of his satires remained plans and 
fragments. Those which he published during his life 
time under a variety of pseudonyms established him as 
the foremost German master of the genre. Though by 
no means imitations of Swift, his powerful influence 
is strongly evident in them. 

Brief and to the point is the "Handbill in the 
name of Philadelphia." 29 Written and distributed in 
Gottingen in 1777 as an anonymous sheet, it ridiculed 
a celebrated magician who called himself after the 
New World town in which he claimed to have been born. 
Imposters, such as the outrageous self-styled Count 
Cagliostro (1743-95) — an almost exact contemporary of 
Lichtenberg--f ound , the enlightenment not 
withstanding, credit in highest society and they 
abused their privileges deplorably. Philadelphia, 
too, had dazzled the credulous. That the people of 
Gottingen, with so much learning in their midst, 
should know no better than to fall prey to his 
promises activated Lichtenberg ' s satiric instincts. 

29 Promies, Vol. Ill, pp. 253-55: "Anschlag- 
Zeddel im Namen von Philadelphia." 


He produced an advertisement for the magician, 
praising his extraordinary powers with litotic 
ambiguity. His friend Dieterich printed the handbill 
with types that had been out of use for a 
considerable time to conceal the origin of the bill, 
and the plan resulted in perfect success. 
Philadelphia left town in a hurry, though a 
performance was still outstanding for which a large 
sum had already been subscribed. 30 

Mautner calls the distribution of this anonymous 
handbill a Humanistenstreich , a learned prank. He 
draws attention, however, to a close resemblance with 
Swift's short satire "The wonders of all the wonders 
that ever the world wondered at" (1721). The affinity 
had first been noted by Jean Paul, 31 who was himself 
an admirer of Swift, though he changed his genre from 
the satire — for which resonance was largely lacking 
in the German miniature states — to the novel. 32 

JU Promies, Kommentar zu Band III , pp. 101-107. 
For a detailed account of the affair, Promies quotes 
a letter of Dieterich to Lichtenberg' s brother Ludwig 

31 Mautner, Lichtenbercr . Geschichte seines 
Geistes . 

p. 165, p. 172. 

32 Wulf Kopke, Erfolglosigkeit. Zum Fruhwerk 
Jean Pauls (Miinchen: Wilhelm Fink, 1977) , pp. 105 and 


Lichtenberg's text starts with high praise of 

the world-renowned magician, followed by the 

announcement of his arrival by mailcoach — implying he 

could have travelled through the air, had he but 

chosen to do so. A description of his rather dreary 

repertory follows, includeing the promise that 

he will collect all the watches, rings and 
jewels from the audience, and if people insist 
on it, their money as well. Everybody will 
obtain a receipt. He will then heap everything 
into a case and depart with it. Eight days 
later every one has to tear up their receipt. 
No sooner is that accomplished, lo and behold, 
watches, rings and jewels will be there. This 
trick has earned him lots of money. 

The ambiguous "there" is the only pointer to the true 

nature of the proposed miracle. The art of deceiving 

through words which are open to different 

interpretations is the stock-in-trade of tricksters 

and charlatans, and both Swift and Lichtenberg 

studied their methods and profited from them. 

Swift's similar satire succeeds by comparable 

means. After announcing that the "famous artist John 

Emanuel Schoits" has newly arrived in town, a list of 

wonders he will perform is enumerated without 

comment. It includes miracles like this: 

He likewise draws the teeth of half a dozen 
Gentlemen; mixes and jumbles them in a hat; 
gives any person leave to blindfold him, while 
he returns each their own, and fixes 


them as well as ever. 33 

Lichtenberg claims a similar miracle for 

Philadelphia, but refines the procedure: 

he gently extracts the teeth of three or four 
ladies, asks the assembly to mix them carefully 
in a bag, inserts them into a small cannon, 
shoots them unto the ladies heads and behold, 
each has her teeth again, clean and white as 
before . 

Swift's ideas are used, but not copied. The 
inutility of the promised miracles is used to expose 
their absurdity. When Lichtenberg informs us that 
his magician has to use the normal means of 
conveyance, and Swift emphasizes that his will 
collect for "the first seat a British Crown, the 
second a British Half-Crown, and the lowest a British 
Shilling," both authors really state that 
such performers are incapable of working miracles. 

Much of what Lichtenberg learned from Swift was 
put to brilliant use in his first published satire 
Timorus (1773), Greek for defender. As the subtitle 
explains, this is "The Defence of Two Israelites who, 
impelled by the strength of Lavater's proofs and the 
Gottingen pork sausages, have accepted the true 
faith, by Conrad Photorin, Candidate of Theology and 
Belles Lettres." 34 Though Photorin is Greek for 

33 Kommentar zu Band III gives the full text of 
Swift's satire, pp. 104-105. 

34 Promies, Vol. Ill, pp. 205-36. 


Lichtenberg, Conrad Photorin is not an authorial 
pseudonym. The eager young theologian, with his 
narrow outlook, has a personality distinctly 
different from that of the real author. His fumbling 
incompetence turns his defense of any cause into 
litotic attack, and the lines of combat are drawn 
with an ambiguity which obliges the reader constantly 
to reorient himself. With Photorin, Lichtenberg 
adopts the Swiftian solution of letting his 
antiheroes condemn themselves. 35 

Creating a satiric persona for such a purpose is 
a technique which Swift frequently employed. When he 
attacks in "The Bickerstaff Papers" the practice of 
filling almanacs with gloomy and sensational but 
conjectural predictions, he does so through the 
putative author Bickerstaff, who claims to be himself 
an astrologer. For this reason, Swift's spokesman 
"could not possibly lay the fault upon the art, but 
upon those gross impostors, who set up to be the 
artists." 36 Faulting the practitioners rather than 
the discipline is also Kreuzgang's approach to 
problems. Where Goethe's Faust blames philosophy, 

35 On this technique see Ronald Paulson, Satire 
and the Novel in Eighteenth Century England (New 
Haven: Yale University Press, 1967), p. 103. 

36 Jonathan Swift, Bickerstaff Papers and 
Pamphlets on the Church . Ed. Herbert Davis (Oxford: 
Basil Blackwell, 1940), pp. 139-50. 


medicine, law, and theology as useless to his purpose 
( Faust I . 354-59), for Kreuzgang philosophers, 
scholars, theologians are the culprits (p. 103) , and 
in Timorus it is the hypocritical practice of 
religion which is ridiculed, not religion itself. In 
the "Apology" to his Tale of a Tub Swift makes the 
same point, stressing that he intends "to expose the 
abuses and corruptions in Learning and Religion." 37 

The immediate occasion for the satire were 
Lavater 's endeavors to convert the Jewish philosopher 
Moses Mendelssohn to Christianity in 1769. 
Mendelssohn declined with a tact and modesty which 
won him universal sympathy, but Lavater persisted 
nevertheless with his proselytyzing. The incident 
turned into a cause celebre , for it was the first 
time in Germany that the moral victory in a public 
religious debate had gone to a Jew. 

Refusing to accept defeat, Lavater christened 
two other Jews in Berlin and attributed their 
conversion to the power of his arguments in the 
Mendelssohn controversy. 38 In the same year two Jews 
in Gottingen also embraced Christianity. Their moral 
fibre differed so strongly from that of Mendelssohn, 
with whom Lichtenberg was on personal and friendly 

37 Gullivers Travels et al. . p. 286. 

38 Kommentar zu Band TTT , pp. 82 ff. 


terms, that Lichtenberg' s satire was activated. Both 
converts were vagrants, one a convicted felon, and 
their change of religion was widely attributed to 
hopes for social and economic, rather than celestial 
advantages. In defending these men and their 
sincerity, Photorin uses litotes to ridicule 
Lavater's missionary zeal. His main target is, 
however, the general hypocrisy of confessing and 
praising a genuine change of heart which is neither 
practised nor expected. 

Religion emptied of its spiritual content is 
also the theme of A Tale of a Tub , with which Timorus 
has many parallels. Swift represents God as a father 
who bequeaths to his three sons identical coats with 
very precise instructions. They are under no 

circumstances to alter them or to adapt them to any 
fashions. Peter represents Roman catholics, Martin 
the Church of England, Jack the dissenters, and the 
tale of their disobedience and quarrels is the story 
of Christian, and — by implication — human folly. It 
is told in a menippean mixture of narration, 
reflection, and digressions, which culminates in "A 
Digression in Praise of Digressions". 39 "An 
Apology," a "Postscript," a letter "To the Right 
Honourable John Lord Somers," an address by "The 

39 Gullivers Travels et al. r p. 356. 


Bookseller to the Reader," the "Epistle dedicatory to 
His Royal Highness Prince Posterity," and finally 
"The Preface" introduce the Tale of a Tub . This 
planned confusion is a deliberate ploy to involve the 
reader and supply him with different, sometimes 
conflicting perspectives, while at the same time it 
satirizes the over-extended contemporary use of 
dedications. As Timorus is much shorter than the 
Tale , it only has two introductions where Swift uses 
six. One of these is a dedication, signed by 
Photorin, "To Oblivion," who is addressed as a great 
and mighty gueen, and thus evokes associations to 
Swift's Prince Posterity as well as of Queen Dullness 
of Pope's Dunciad . The other is a preface by the 
editor in the form of a letter to the reader. Both 
introductions denigrate through inappropriate praise, 
and thus take up the main theme of the satire from 
the beginning. 

The similarity of Her Majesty Oblivion to 
Swift's Prince Posterity has not escaped attention. 40 
Parallels also exist between Lichtenberg' s 
"Introduction by the Editor" and Swift's address of 
"The Bookseller to the Reader." Both serve to 
distance the real as well as the pretended author 
from the reading public, and to commend the work from 

40 Komment ar zu Band TTT f p. 84 (note to p. 206) . 


the viewpoint of a person who disclaims all 
responsibility for its contents, yet has a natural 
interest in its promotion. Sophisticated subtleties, 
based on a penetrating intellect and a thorough 
mastery of rhetoric, abound in Swit's and 
Lichtenberg's satires. Bonaventura's text has to be 
read on the same level to reveal its interlocking and 
multi-layered meaning, and its intentional 

Timorus takes the form of a sermon, and the 
imaginary congregation is apostrophised occasionally. 
Idiomatic references to the devil — characteristic of 
Lichtenberg's style as of Bonaventura's — fit quite 
naturally into the pseudo-theological context. 
Direct and indirect use of Bible quotations is rather 
more conspicuous in Timorus than in Lichtenberg's 
other writings, which suggests a deliberate effort to 
strengthen the illusion of a theological author. The 
printed form of the sermon is a further parody of 
Lavater, whose preaching was for a time so 
fashionable that his unedited words were rushed into 

In harmony with the theological tone and with 
Lavater' s well-known habits, Timorus ends with 
overflowing assurances of selfless good will and the 
final exhortation "Grow in Faith." Faith is here 


substituted for the "grace" in 2 Peter XIII, 18. 
While the sermon thus ends on an authentic note, the 
colloquial usage of the German Glaube — faith — in the 
sense of uncritical acceptance is also brought into 
Enthusiasts, those who are carried away by their 
inspirations and wishful thinking, are an aversion 
which Lichtenberg and Bonaventura share with Swift. 
The Dean applied the term mainly to religious 
dissenters, Lichtenberg and Bonaventura, writing 
after the secularizing process which took place 
during the eighteenth century, to poets. 

In the Tale of a Tub Swift satirizes such people 
mainly in the person of Jack, especially in Section 
IX, the "Digression on Madness," and in Section VIII, 
which leads up to it and contains a discourse or 
digression on wind. Here Swift introduces variations 
on Burton's "Digression of Air," 41 exploring all 
connotations of the word, from spirit and anima mundi 
to inflatus and belching, and he plays on sophisms 
such as "Words are but wind; and learning is nothing 
but words; ergo, learning is nothing but wind." 42 

The digressions in the Tale of a Tub add 
elements of constant uncertainty and surprise to the 

41 Burton, pp. 407-438. 

42 Gulliver's Travels et al , p. 362. 


witty, but somewhat predictable parable of the three 

coats. While they inform the reader they also 

disorient him, which is precisely what Swift wants to 

achieve, as it is the satirist's aim "to give form to 

the shifting ambiguities and complexities of 

unidealized existence." 43 Not satisfied merely to 

confront his readers with these, Swift manipulates 

the menippean conventions to force his public into 

intellectual and moral decisions. 

The first of the digressions — Lichtenberg 

translates the term with Ausschweifuna 44 — concerns 

critics, writers on whom the enlightenment, 

Lichtenberg included, focussed much attention. Satire 

is a genre particularly interested in pedigrees, 

partly to parody human self-agrandisement , but also 

to establish a link with tradition, to extend the 

allegorical dimension, and to alert the reader to a 

multiplicity of implications, in this spirit Swift 

describes the background for 

the TRUE CRITIC, whose original is the most 
ancient of all. Every true critic is a hero 
born, descending in a direct line from a 
celestial stem by Momus and Hybris, who begat 
Zoilus, who begat Tigellius, who begat 
Etcetera the Elder; who begat Bentley, and 

3 Frye, p. 223. 

4 Promies, Vol. in, p. 229. 


Rymer, and Wotton, and Perrault, and Dennis, who 
begat Etcetera the Younger. 45 

The passage only makes sense to those familiar 
with the names it mentions. Lichtenberg read, 
digested and remembered it, for he used ideas from it 
in his commentary to the first print of Hogarth's 

Ra ^e I s Progress (1796) . Speaking of the Rake's 

recklessness with his inheritance, he first refers to 
the disregard of the three brothers in the Tale of a 
Tub towards their father's last will, and then 
remarks that whatever an Etcetera I has hoarded, an 
Etcetera II will invariably squander. Context and 
wording are adapted to Lichtenberg 's own purpose, but 
the connection with the Tale of a Tub is preserved by 
a footnote in which Lichtenberg attributes the 
expression to Swift. 46 

Swift's device of quoting learned and weighty 
sources of his own invention may burlesque Burton and 
his constant references, frequently to quite obscure 
and inaccessible documents, but it is also a useful 
distancing device. Thus Swift's digression on wind 
is introduced by the bold claim: "The learned 
Aeolists maintain the original cause of all things to 
be wind." Aeolists are soon exposed by the Hack's 

45 Gulliver's Travels et *1 . , Section III, p. 329. 

46 Promies, Vol. in, p. 823. 


litotes as pretenders to inspiration, in plain words 
windbags. The chapter warns against imagination and 
idealism divorced from reality, and corresponds 
therefore to the Eighth Nightwatch, where the fate of 
the poor poet epitomizes the same theme. His lofty 
aspirations are parabolized as well as satirized by 
his abode "high up over the city in a free garret," 
where he "ruled ... so high in the airways" (p. 
29) . 

Bonaventura follows Swift and Lichtenberg in the 
use of metaphors which are taken from daily life and 
from immediate personal experience to illustrate 
abstract concepts. All three are masters in 
sustaining such imagery through many variations. In 
the Tale of a Tnh Swift already uses sleep in the 
metaphorical sense of the Nicrhtwatches . 47 when his 
Hack informs the reader "I wake when others sleep and 
sleep when others wake," he is not talking of his 
personal routine, but of attitudes to life, and like 
the nightwatchman he claims to perform this task for 
the benefit of others. 

Clothes metaphors are the special hallmark of 
the Tale of a Tnh. They explain the superficiality, 
changeability and hypocrisy of human behaviour. 

Adelung's definition of "Nachtwache" is 
watch that protects the sleep of others. 


Details like embroidery, fringes, and gold lace are 

introduced to deepen the analogy. All these similes 

lead to the guestion: "What is man himself but a 

microcoat, or rather a complete suit of clothes with 

all its trimmings?" 48 Lichtenberg admired this 

technigue of expressing abstractions in everyday 

language. A plan for a satire, sketched out on 

December 20th, 1773 begins with the suggestion: 

Writing an allegory on the present state of 
criticism using gardens in the way Swift does 
clothes in A Tale of a Tub might work guite 
well. (D 214) 

In using clothes metaphors when speaking of Swift's 

works, he pays homage to his special genius as well 

as to the brilliant imagery in the Tale of a Tub : 

Swift certainly often dresses the children of 
his imagination strangely enough, so that they 
can hardly be distinguished from clowns and 
acrobats; however the materials, trimmings and 
stones he uses are always genuine. (G 121) 

Literary criticism, which figures so prominently 

in the Nightwatches , was one of Lichtenberg's 

persistent concerns, for like the English writers of 

the eighteenth century from Addison to Johnson he 

realised the importance of the critic in shaping 

public opinion, and he deplored any misuse of this 

influential office. in the Nightwatches literary 

criticism plays also an important part, and so does 

48 Gulliver's Travels et al , , p. 379 
pp. 321-22. 


an inhabitant of Grub Street. Lichtenberg was so 
familiar with this place that he thought of ways to 
translate its meaning into German (C 75 and D 148) . 
The concept was still alien to the German situation, 
where writing was not yet an accepted profession. In 
Goethe's Wilhelm Meister , which started the German 
trend of artists as protagonists, the hero never can 
travel in search of inspiration and, following his 
lead, painters and writers in German romantic fiction 
wandered in search of new horizons with little 
concern for those drab necessities of life which 
dominated the frustrating existence of the house- 
bound Grub Street inhabitants. 

As late as 1839 the picture of a Poor Poet in an 
attic, Karl Spitzweg's Per arme Poet , caused an 
outcry when it was first exhibited in Munich. It 
took many years before the public was reconciled to 
the subject and the painting became a general 
favorite. But in English eighteenth-century 
literature, Swift's Hack is only one of innumerable 
predecessors of Bonaventura ' s poor poet. 

Bonaventura not only uses themes from The Tale 
of a Tub , and shares its dominant concern with 
unmasking human pretensions, but he also employs the 
imagery of Swift's satire. Clothes metaphors are 
handled with skill and imagination, notably to 


characterize the poet who wrote "to leading spirits 
for old cast-off clothes," and decks himself out with 
Kant's shoes, Goethe's hat and Schiller's sleeping 
cap (p. 179). To all this, he adds Lessing's wig, a 
part of human attire which Swift neglected, but which 
Lichtenberg freely uses in Swift's manner (L 4) . 
Hair-pieces feature prominently in Lichtenberg's 
controversial "Fragment concerning Tails." 49 In this 
travesty of Lavater's physiognomical procedure, tails 
from pigs to wigs are analysed to deduce the 
character of the owner in language which parodies 
Lavater's incoherent rhapsodies. An indelicate 
double meaning is introduced by silhouettes of so- 
called student's tails, most of them in the shape of 
hair pieces, but some unmistakably phallic. This 
spirited lampoon was published in 1783 without 
Lichtenberg's consent or knowledge, and much to his 
embarrassment, for he had written it in 1777 strictly 
for the private amusement of some intimate friends. 
Many readers recoiled — at least in their public 
reactions — and the publication impaired Lichtenberg's 
reputation as a serious scholar. 

Swift's corporeal analogies are by no means all 
of this suggestive nature. Thus the "Digression in 
Praise of Digressions" is introduced by the claim 

49 Promies, Vol. Ill, pp. 533-38. 


that "the commonwealth of learning is chiefly obliged 

to the great modern improvement of digressions: the 

late refinements in knowledge, running parallel to 

those of diet in our nation, which among men of a 

judicious taste are dressed up in various compounds, 

consisting in soups and olios, fricassees, and 

ragouts." Allusions to diet recur in the Academy of 

Lagado, where Gulliver is introduced to a novel 

method of learning: 

The proposition and demonstration were fairly 
written on a thin wafer, with ink composed of a 
cephalic tincture. This the student was to 
swallow upon a fasting stomach, and for three 
days following eat nothing, but bread and water. 
As the wafer digested, the tincture mounted to 
his brain, bearing the proposition along with 
it. 50 

Bonaventura uses the same imagery, almost the same 
words, but employs them in an extended and higher 
context. Considering the stomach as the "connecting 
canal of spirits" he declares "through it they ascend 
as vapours into the head, after the animal part has 
in turn gone its way." The link with Swift's eating 
and reading metaphor is then reestablished, because 
Kreuzgang goes on to observe that from this "it is as 
plain as day that we can absorb the great wise men, a 
Plato, Hemsterhuis, Kant, et al. in ourselves merely 
by contentedly eating our way into them" (p. 187) . 

Gulliver . Part III, Chapt. v. 


Mechanically acquired learning is a traditional 
target of satire. The attack on legal abuses are an 
even more integral part of the genre. In Timorus 
Lichtenberg displays his skill in this field, and 
demonstrates that his wit is distilled from thorough 
acquaintance with laws and legal proceedings. He 
quotes from an ancient legal code of his own 
invention to prove why only minor criminals are ever 
prosecuted, and establishes on this authority that 
the converted Jew with the prison record must be a 
harmless offender. The argument is syllogistically 
pursued on several levels and conducted throughout in 
a brilliant parody of archaic legalese. 51 The 
fictional records report that when long ago law was 
applied with strict regard to justice, the prisons 
were soon overflowing. To save the system it was 
finally agreed that only petty offenders and poor 
devils — a favorite expression of Lichtenberg as of 
Bonaventura — should be sent to jail. 

Lichtenberg dissected problems as relentlessly 
as Swift. Not only back to their origins, however, 
but also forward to their future implications. His 
conclusions often resulted, therefore, in 
surprisingly accurate forecasts, as has become clear 
only in recent times, though his contemporaries 

51 Promies, Vol. Ill, pp. 215 ff. 


usually regarded his prophesying as inspired whimsy. 

In Timorus he arrived at the chilling thought, "If 

ever (and who can tell whether that will not be the 

case one day) criminals will outnumber us, then we 

will be put into prisons." 52 Bonaventura likewise 

considers the possibility that "in a state full of 

nothing but thieves, honesty alone would have to be 

punished with the rope" (p. 129) . 

Mistrust of systems is another of Lichtenberg's 

prime concerns which he shares with the English 

eighteenth-century satirists and with Bonaventura. 

Thus Kreuzgang remarks about the mad world creator: 

It is almost dangerous for us other fools to 
have to tolerate this titan among us, for he has 
his consistent system just as well as Fichte, 
and basically has an even smaller opinion of man 
than the latter, (p. 153) 

Lichtenberg's aversion against systems stemmed from 

the conviction that as long as they are based on 

insufficient knowledge, they are bound to be faulty 

and therefore an impediment to any further progress 

of understanding. His satire is also directed 

against intellectuals who misuse their learning. 

In Gullivers Travels Swift lashes out at what 

he assumes are "mistakes in natural philosophy," and 

says "that new systems of nature were but new 

fashions, which would vary in every age; and even 

52 Promies, Vol. Ill, p. 216. 


those who pretend to demonstrate them from 
mathematical principles would flourish but a short 
period of time, and be out of vogue when that was 
determined. 1,53 Lichtenberg' s position was similar. 

In his last notebook he wrote about political 
systems, surmising that mankind would rush for ever 
from one order into another (L 34) . Occasion for 
this remark was a book which had impressed him enough 
to record the date of reading, October 28th, 1796. 
This was Per politische Tierkreis, oder die Zeichen 
der Zeit by Huergelraer, and it seems to have been a 
political satire in which human beings were compared 
with animals, much in the manner of the "Prologue to 
the Tragedy: Man," where the Clown claims that "most 
men . . . acquire in their physiognomies a striking 
racial resemblance with birds of prey, as for 
instance vultures, hawks, etc;" and that "the older 
aristocracy is sooner able to trace its pedigrees to 
the beasts of prey than to apes" (p. 139) . 

Like Swift and Lichtenberg, Kreuzgang cannot put 
his trust in human leadership, systems or 
institutions. He perceives the faults and flaws in 
human reasoning all too clearly, and the self- 
satisfied confidence around him fills him with grave 

DJ Gulliver's Travels . Book III, Chapt. vii, p. 



foreboding. He sees himself surrounded by 

uncertainties and trusts in nothing. 

"Nothing" is also the theme on which Swift ends 

his tale: "I am now trying an experiment very 

freguent among Modern authors; which is to write upon 

Nothing ; when the subject is utterly exhaused to let 

the pen still move on; by some called the ghost of 

wit, delighting to walk after the death of its body." 

Further variations on this theme raise the suspicion 

that the author may really be embarrassed to find the 

final words, when he suddenly connects his digression 

on the writer's predicament to the very essence of 

his discourse, the guest for meaning in life: 

The conclusion of a treatise resembles the 
conclusion of human life, which hath sometimes 
been compared to the end of a feast; where few 
are satisfied to depart. 54 

The Clown's "Prologue" ends much like Swift's Tale of 

a Tub : the serious purpose behind the frills becomes 

suddenly apparent, and the seeming irrelevancies 

assume unexpected significance. They are revealed as 

froth on the surface which hides the great issues of 

life and death, destiny and eternity from immediate 

view, because they would be too painful to envision: 

The death's head is never missing behind the 
ogling mask and life is only the cap and bells 
which the Nothing has draped around to tinkle 

Gulliver's Travels et al . p. 393. 


with and finally to tear up fiercely and hurl 
from itself, (p. 141) 

After the Prologue ends and the Clown departs 
the Ninth Nightwatch begins. Like Section IX in the 
Tale of a Tub it is a digression on madness. Though 
the use of the same chapter-number deliberately draws 
attention to Swift's paramount influence on 
Kreuzgang's Bedlam experience, the combined work of 
the Scriblerians has contributed significantly to 
Bonaventura's design. Pope and the other 

Scriblerians will, therefore, be discussed before 
Swift's connection with Bonaventura is extended to 
the Ninth Nightwatch. 



Pope's major works were well known in Germany 
among the erudite, who appreciated his polished 
language, the accuracy of his satiric darts, and the 
ease of access to English philosophy which he 
offered, especially to the thoughts of Shaftesbury . 1 
His collected works were owned by Lichtenberg in an 
English edition of 1764, and in German translation. 
The library contained also a German edition of the 
Essay on Criticism which included the original text 
(Nos. 1662-64) , and an English edition of the Essay 
on Man . Of this there was also a German translation 
which included other, not further specified 
translations from Pope (Nos. 1381-82) . 

Lichtenberg admired especially Pope's ease of 
expression, and his gift for explaining abstract 
ideas in concrete and clearly understandable terms. 
That it was primarily this linguistic presentation 
which fascinated him is shown by the fact that he 

1 Price, English Literature in Germany , 
Chapt. v, "Pope and Philosophic Poetry," pp. 61-72. 



copied various lines of Pope into his notebooks in 

the original English, a habit which started early in 

1770 (A 135) and continued to the end of his life (L 

448 and L 700) . 

Stimulation by Pope is suggested by the plan to 

write a satire in his manner, one of many satiric 

proposals of which only brief hints survive: 

To imitate "a key to the lock." To interpret 
the Sorrows of Werther in relation to America or 
similar circumstances, or with a view to the 
revelations (Fata) of the Christian Religion. 
Inguisition in Spain. (F 332) 

Such cryptic remarks do not allow accurate 
assessment of what Lichtenberg actually had in mind. 
F 3 32, like others of Lichtenberg' s satirical 
outlines, could easily be taken for the whim of an 
idle hour. Reference to the Key to the Lock shows, 
however, that Lichtenberg not merely read fashionable 
masterpieces. He also went into their background, 
and familiarized himself with everything that had any 
bearing on them. As Pope had published A Key to the 
Lock in 1715 anonymously, with the satirical intent 
to interpret his own Rape of the Lock in a wrong and 
misleading way, and thus mock his detractors, the 
reference shows that Lichtenberg was thinking in 


terms of multilevelled irony when he sketched out his 
compressed plan for a satire. 2 

The ironic pose of vindicating a work by 
fallacious attacks presupposes an alert and well 
educated audience, and Lichtenberg delighted in such 
intellectual challenge. Pope's pamphlet already 
discloses in the title a technigue in which 
Lichtenberg himself excelled: skilful play with the 
different, often contradictory meanings of words, 
especially those which were common and freguently 
used. The ambiguities which can be created by 
dexterous verbal manipulation surprise and thus 
delight, but they also serve the serious purpose of 
inducing a fresh survey of familiar surroundings, as 
they induce thought and contemplation. In such a 
work anonymity is more than author protection, it is 
a literary device by which the reader is deprived of 
authorial guidance, and forced to decode the messages 
without any help. 

Pope is mainly renowned for the lucid clarity of 
his diction and for the guotability of his couplets, 
which often seem effortlessly simple. His delight in 
ambiguities, parodies, burlesgues and mystifications 

2 The pamphlet to which Lichtenberg refered is A 

Ke Y to the Lock or a treatise proving beyond all 

contradiction the dangerous tendency of a late poem 

entitled the rape of the lock to government and 

religion. It was published in London, 1715. 


was shared by the members of the Scriblerus Club. 
The originator of this select circle, and initially 
the driving force behind it was Pope himself, though 
his friend Jonathan Swift was to become the visible 
center of a group which included the learned and 
versatile Dr. John Arbuthnot (1667-1735) , physician 
to Queen Anne; Thomas Parnell (1679-1718) , author of 
the "Night-Piece on Death" , probably the herald of 
the eighteenth-century graveyard poetry; John Gay 
(1685-1732) , author of the Beggars Opera ; and Robert 
Harley, the first earl of Oxford (1661-1724) , a 
prominent Tory politician and man of letters. 

A Key to the Lock was written while the 
activities of the club were at their height, and it 
is likely that all Scriblerians took a hand in it. 3 
They had set themselves the task of "not merely 
ridiculing the follies of party writers, critics, 
editors, and commentators, but of satirizing all 
follies among men of learning, whether philosophers 
or artists, antiquarian or travelers, teachers or 
poets, lawyers or dancing masters." This 
responsibility they approached with "vigorous and 

3 Memoirs of the Extraordinary Life. Works, and 
Discoveries of Martinus Scriblerus . Written in 
Collaboration by the Members of the Scriblerus Club, 
John Arbuthnot, Alexander Pope, Jonathan Swift, John 
Gay, Thomas Parnell and Robert Harley, Earl of 
Oxford. Ed. Charles Kerby-Miller (New Haven: Yale 
University Press, 1950). Introduction, p. 42 and n. 2. 


skeptical common sense, . . . scorn for cant, 
hypocrisy and enthusiasm 4 . . . fear of disorder and 
unbridled innovation . . . distrust of projectors and 
schematists. " They possessed "exceptionally well- 
informed minds, . . . [an] extraordinarily rich sense 
of the ridiculous, . . . ingenious fancy and copious 
wit." 5 Lichtenberg combined these aims and 
gualities, and he also shared the verbal virtuosity 
of these men, all of whom figure in his notes and 

The wit of the Scriblerus Club was too topical 
and intellectually demanding to attain popularity 
even in England, and in Germany only few were able to 
savor it properly. Lichtenberg highly enjoyed Dr. 
Arbuthnot's Law is a Bottomless Pit which later 
achieved fame as The History of John Bull . Already 
during his second stay in England he had reached the 
conclusion: "John Bull represents the character of 
the Englishman" (E 68) . The same opinion is again 
expressed in his travelling journal, where he also 
notes that either Swift is the author or more likely 
Dr. Arbuthnot, as Swift would hardly have treated the 
Scots with so much fairness. Whether this was an 

4 The word is to be taken in the eighteenth- 
century sense where it denotes reliance on 
inspiration rather than on reason and evidence. 

5 Ed. Kerby-Miller, Memoirs, Introduction, p. 73. 


independent or acquired opinion, the remark witnesses 
to considerable familiarity with Scriblerian 
thoughts . 6 

The Scriblerians were especially concerned with 
the abuses of learning which lead to miscarriage and 
perversion of justice, a prime target for satire 
since antiquity. Their extensive use of satire as "a 
most effective weapon . . . against the object of 
their special hatred . . . law, lawyers and the legal 
profession" is the topic of a thesis by James Walter 
Carter. Their efforts in this field were 
significant, in that they "indirectly brought about a 
reform of the very abuses and corruptions prevalent 
in the legal processes and profession of which they 
wrote . " 7 

In the Nightwatches this tradition continues. 
Misapplications of law are satirically exposed in 
many instances: in the figure of the wizened old 
judge, in whom everything human was "erased with only 
the mere expression of work remaining" (p. 51) ; in 
the rally for the Last Judgement in the Sixth 

b Ed. Gumbert, Lichtenberg in England , Vol. I, 
p. 154. 

7 James Walter Carter, Scriblerian Satire 
against Law . Thesis for the Degree of Master of Arts, 
Gainesville: University of Florida, 1958, p. 9, 
p. 109. 


Nightwatch; in the judicial murder of the nun (p. 165 
-69) . 

Lichtenberg' s own satires on the law rival those 

of the Scriblerians in exuberant spirit and 

inventiveness only in his first published satire. 

Later he kept largely quiet about a subject on which 

any controversy was severely discouraged in heavily 

censored Germany. That injustice nevertheless 

affected him strongly in the Scriblerian spirit is 

shown by occasional asides in his notes and letters. 

Thus he records: 

Sometimes a sentence comes to mind first thing 
in the morning which then keeps recurring to the 
memory all day long. Thus on February 28th, 
1778 I said nearly every quarter of an hour "law 
is a bottomless pit." (F 877) 

The Scriblerian hey-days were in 1714, but while 
common interests inspired works which gained fame and 
acclaim, these were mainly published later, so 
Swift's Gulliver's Travels (1726) or Gay's Beggar's 
Opera (1728) . The main joint effort appeared later 
still, when Pope included The Memoirs of Martinus 
Scriblerus in the second volume of his prose works in 

The object of the satire is to expose 
intellectual follies in all walks of life, and 
Martinus satirizes those who are carefully educated, 
but crammed with knowledge, rather than led to 


understanding. He has developed a narrow and 
pedantic outlook and serves admirably to demonstrate 
the favorite Scriblerian techniques of strategic 
fallacious reasoning which destroys the adversaries' 
argument by stretching it to absurd extensions. His 
companion and foil is Conrad Crambe, a born punster 
with "a natural disposition to sport himself with 
words," who prides himself on his Treatise of 
Syllogisms . another non-existent book that is used to 
satiric purpose. His glaring incompetence 
notwithstanding, Conrad teaches metaphysics. 8 

In Lichtenberg's Timorus the function of the 
glib and verbose Conradus Crambe, somebody clearly 
unqualified to judge, is assigned to equally shallow 
and self-assured Conrad Photorin. Though Conrad was 
the name of Lichtenberg's father, the similarity of 
the two satiric persona should not be overlooked, for 
both operate on the Scriblerian plan to ridicule by 
ironic praise the works and attitudes which the 
satire as a whole attacks. 

This method had been brilliantly exercised 
during a Renaissance controversy in which the German 
scholar Johannes Reuchlin (1455-1522) had defended 
some Jews, and thereby conflicted with the 
authorities of the church. As it was too dangerous 

8 Ed. Kerby-Miller, Memoirs , p. 118. 


to come out openly in his defense, Epistolae 
obscurorum virorum appeared under various fictitious 
names, prominently among them one Conrad, a name so 
popular at the time in Germany, that it designated 
practically "everyman. 11 These Letters of the Obscure 
Men ( 1515-17) prudently took up Reuchlin's cause by 
exaggerated support of his attackers, but with the 
fallacious arguments of misinformed ignorance, and in 
such deficient Latin that their want of a sound cause 
was easily exposed. By casting Conrad in a similar 
role, the Scriblerians seem to have acknowledged 
their indebtedness to the earlier satire, and Conrad 
Photorin stands in the same tradition. 

Timorus includes a lengthy digression on Siamese 
twins called Helena and Judith. 9 The same girls also 
appear in the Memoirs of Martinus Scriblerus , where 
the taller and fair one is called Lindamira, and 
becomes for a short and confusing period the wife of 
Martinus. "The Double Mistress," as this grotesgue 
episode is called, serves mainly to ridicule 
cumbersome legal procedure, for by marrying one of 
the sisters Martin gets inextricably involved with 
both, a situation which supplies lawyers and judges 
with ample opportunities for ingenious sophistry. 10 

9 Promies, Vol. Ill, pp. 225-27. 

10 Ed. Kerby-Miller, Memoirs, Chapt. xiv-xv. 


In a firework of wit which offended many 
sensibilities, Martinus is legally pronounced a 
lawful husband, a bigamist, an adulterer, and a 
perpetrator of incest. The final annulment of the 
ill- fated union indicates the propensity of legal 
procedures to grind to a halt after feverish 
activities. Bishop Warburton omitted the whole 
incident from his edition of The Works of Alexander 
Pope in 1751. 

Charles Kerby-Miller reinstated "The Double 
Mistress" in his 1950 edition. He traces the episode 
to "twins, whose names were Helena and Judith, . . . 
born in Szony, in Hungary, on October 26th, 1701," 
who were exhibited in The Hague. There the English 
scholar William Burnet saw them, and he "sent a 
description and a print of them to Sir Hans Sloane," 
which was read to the Royal Society on May 12th, 
1708. 11 The Scriblerians used this case history to 
expose empty legal verbiage. 

Conrad Photorin, true to his role as pompous and 
shallow theologian, names as his source the 
Philosophical Transactions and the controversial 
Treatises on the Principal Truths of Natural Religion 
(1754) by H. S. Reimarus, only to denigrate the 
learned Reimarus, whose denial of the supernatural in 

11 Ed. Kerby-Miller, Memoirs , pp. 294-95. 


religion 12 led to bitter attacks. Conrad refers to 
Reimarus, scholar and theologian, as a lay person, 
whom few theologians would read, and follows in this 
the Scriblerian plan for satire to denigrate the good 
and praise the bad. Through this satiric method 
Lichtenberg also accuses the adversaries of Reimarus 
in general of not having read his works. Through 
Reimarus the topos of freethinkers is introduced into 
Timorus . Martinus Scriblerus 13 and the Nightwatches 
are likewise concerned with this theme. 

The enlightened Reimarus, through the anecdote 
of the twins, investigated the correlation of body 
and soul, an aspect of the double with which 
Lichtenberg increasingly occupied himself. Conrad 
Photorin, however, interprets Reimarus on a purely 
superficial level, and identifies the more alert 
Judith with the soul, and the subdued Helena with the 
body. The allegory is then extended to their 
guarrels and disagreements, from whence Conrad 
returns to the main argument of his letter, the 
conversion by Lavater of two Jews who had been 
accused of having changed their religion because of a 

12 Lichtenberg used the word Fata for 
revelation, thereby indicating his mistrust in 
knowledge that cannot be verified empirically (F 
332) . 

13 Ed. Kerby-Miller , Memoirs , e.g., p. 138. 


predilection for pork sausages, in other words for 

purely secular advantages. Proving through the 

example of the twins that body and soul are one, 

Conrad argues that whether something is done for the 

body or for the soul must needs be all the same. 

In T imorus Lichtenberg's persistent 

preoccupation with twinning aspects showed itself for 

the first time. His continuing contributions to the 

problems of double perspectives are counted by Albert 

Schneider among the reasons, why he sees in 

Lichtenberg an important forerunner of the romantic 

movement. 14 The episode of the two brides in the 

Nightwatches leads to a matrimonial outcome similar 

to that experienced by Martinus Scriblerius: the 

groom with an original choice of two girls is left 

with nothing. The satirical didactic purpose of the 

melodramatic episode is revealed in a concluding 

paragraph, which emphasizes, as in the complementary 

story of the two brothers, the repeat pattern of this 

human triangle: 

. . . near by, youths are still singing and 
carousing and squander life and love and poetry 
in a brief swift intoxication which by morning 

14 See Albert Schneider, "Le Double Prince." 
For further affinities between Lichtenberg and the 
romantics see also Albert Schneider, Lichtenberg , 
Precurseur du Romantisme . I , L'homme et l'oeuvre 
(Nancy: Societe d' Impressions Typographiques, 1954) . 
II- Lichtenberg. Penseur (Paris: Societe d ' Edition 
'Les Belles Lettres', n.d.), p. 162. 


is dispelled — when their deeds, their dreams, 
their hopes, their wishes and everything around 
them has become sober and grown cold . . . 

(p. 163) 

In The Nightwatches the rejected girl is merely 
referred to as "the white one," while her rival is 
alternately called "the red one" or "the rose." The 
distinction corresponds to that of the fair and 
lively Lindamore, the bride of Martinus, while in her 
dark sister "Indamora the Lily overcame the Rose." 15 
The stereotypes in both works indicate that the 
events are not actual but representative, and when in 
the Nightwatches the rose swoons and dies, turning 
from red to white herself, the symbolism of the 
interchanging characteristics from the tale of the 
two opposite brothers is once more repeated. At the 
same time the ludicrous elements of a neverending 
tragic situation are highlighted. 16 The short 
interlude points to the affinities between 
Bonaventura and the Scriblerians, and compresses the 
full range of menippean possibilities into a few 
short paragraphs, from the grotesque to the profound, 

15 Ed. Kerby-Miller, Memoirs , p. 146. 

1 ft 

Cf. F 678, where Lichtenberg quotes an 
epigram referring to one of Queen Anne's wars 
They both did fight, they both did beat 
they both did run away, 
They both did strive to meet again 
The quite contrary way. 


from literary sophistication to the rudiments of 
street ballads (p. 161 and 163) . 

The Scriblerians devote their first Chapter to 
their protagonist's genealogy, a common menippean 
device by which they satirize the human vanity of 
claiming distinction as a birth right, and at the 
same time establish their hero as an allegorical 
rather than a real person. Thus Martin's father is 
represented as a German of Miinster, "by Profession an 
Antiguary" who claims co-sanguinity with such famed 
alchemists as Albertus Magnus and Paracelsus. 17 

Lichtenberg did not share the Scriblerian 
disdain for natural science. He fully appreciated 
the royal efforts to promote mechanical advances, 
especially in horology, for as an astronomer he 
realized that among the benefits these bestowed on 
humanity were considerable improvements in 

1 ' As Miinster borders on Hanover this seems a 
satire on Leibniz, a close associate of the House of 
Hanover whose possible transference to England was 
discussed during the time the Scriblerians were 
active. The interest of the Hanoverian Kings in 
mechanical devices and natural science which the 
Scriblerians ridicule individually and as a group, 
was largely inspired by Leibniz, who was also the 
inventor of a tentative calculating machine — a device 
which is satirized in Martinus Scriblerus as well as 
in Volume III of Gulliver's Travels (Chapt. v, pp. 
180-83) . 


navigation. 18 In accordance with this attitude, the 
alchemist father in the Nightwatches functions as an 
extension of Kreuzgang's personality, symbolizing his 
background of science, learning and traditional 
values, while the gypsy mother represents his 
passionate and impulsive side. Thus the grotesgue 
genealogy exposes the incongruous coupling in human 
nature of instinct and reason. 

In satire as in morality plays, proper names are 
traditionally used for characterization, and the 
Scriblerians utilise this for Martinus and his family 
tree, as well as for his companion Conrad Crambe who 
proposes: "There cannot be more in the conclusion 
than was in the premises; that is children can only 
inherit from their parents." 19 In Kreuzgang's case 
this characterisation is, however, extended to an 
evil god-father, and a foster father who is a mystic 
artisan. By compressing his hero's background in 
this manner, Bonaventura can dispense with the 
complicated pedigrees which characterize Martinus and 
other menippean protagonists. As inguiries into the 
meaning of life are the prime concern of the 
menippea, the Scriblerians explain: assertion: 

18 e.g. J 1155 where "Hugenus, Dr. Hooke and 
Harrison" are praised as creators of clocks, and for 
having extended the limits of science. 

19 Ed. Kerby-Miller, Memoirs , p. 122. 


In this Design of Martin to investigate the 
Diseases of the Mind, he thought nothing so 
necessary as an Enquiry after the Seat of the 
Soul ; in which at first he labour 'd under 
great uncertainties. Sometimes he was of 
opinion that it log'd in the Brain, sometimes in 
the Stomach, and sometimes in the Heart. 
Afterwards he thought it absurd to confine 
that sovereign Lady to one apartment, which made 
him infer that she shifted it according to the 
several functions of life: The Brain was her 
Study, the Heart her State-room, and the Stomach 
her Kitchen. 20 

As if in direct response to this passage, Kreuzgang 

commences his contemplations on the central role of 

the stomach with the declaration: 

As others the head or the heart, so I assume the 
stomach to be the seat of life. (p. 185) 

Keeping in mind the raunchy wit of the Scriblerus 

Club and its occasional use by Lichtenberg and 

Bonaventura, seat may be taken here in both its 

literal and abstract meaning. 

Both discussions occur in a twelfth chapter, in 

conjunction with other parallels probably a 

sophisticated method of allusion. Intentional 

parallelism is indicated by the ending of both 

chapters with a comparison of man to a machine. 

Kreuzgang refers to man as "this artful machine" in 

which a thousand wheels are driving and turning" (p. 

187) , while the Scriblerians wind up their chapter by 

satirizing the invention of a "Hydraulic Engine." 

Ed. Kerby-Miller, Memoirs , p. 137 

The Freethinkers, to whom the Scriblerians refer 
several times, are represented in the Niqhtwatches 
mainly by the intellectual in the First Nightwatch, 
whose death directs the focus from the start towards 
problems concerning the existence and continuation of 
the soul, and provides at the same time opportunity 
for hard-hitting satire of the abuses of learning in 
theology (p. 35 ff.). 

Both works also pay tribute to the Spanish 
contributions to tragi-comic literature by mention of 
Spain in various ways. Of Martinus it is said that 
due to "the Gravity of his Deportment and Habit [he] 
was generally taken for a decayed Gentleman of 
Spain." He and his foil Conrad Crambe evoke Don 
Quixote and Sancho Panza; 21 and when "the Revenge of 
a cruel Spaniard" drives Martinus "almost through the 
whole terragueous globe" a mixture of chivalry and 
futile fanaticism is indicated merely by casting a 
Spaniard in the role of pursuer. Bonaventura, in 
turn, chooses a Spanish setting for the tragedy of 
the opposed brothers. 

Abuses of teaching are exposed by the 
Scriblerians when Martin's teacher freguently carries 
"him to the Puppet-Show of the Creation of the world, 

ZL Memoirs , e.g. pp. 124 and 169; Introduction, 
"The Literary Background," pp. 68 ff. 


where the Child with exceeding delight gain'd a 
notion of the History of the Bible." 22 This passage 
is one of many in English eighteenth-century 
literature which witnesses to the popularity of 
puppet-plays, and Bonaventura, too, draws much of his 
imagery from them. 

Among the many devices to expose pretensions, 
the Scriblerians included Latinizing their hero's 
name. Bonaventura follows the lead by using 
alternately the Latin form "Olearius" for Dr. 
Oehlmann, his guintessntial dunce. 

Subtleties of this kind were often only 
accessible to a restricted circle even among 
contemporaries, and such sophisticated authorial 
intent is freguently missed. Not surprisingly The 
Memoirs of Martinus Scriblerus shares the fate of 
menippean satires to be often misunderstood. 23 The 
text was particularly difficult to appreciate, as the 
work was published so long after the events which 
provoked the satire. 

22 Ed. Kerby-Miller, Memoirs . Chapt. iv, "Of the 
Suction and Nutrition of the Great Scriblerus in his 
Infancy, and of the first Rudiments of his Learning," 
p. 107, and commentary p. 215. 

23 Frye, Anatomy . After proposing to rename the 
menippea "anatomy," Frye writes: "It is the anatomy 
in particular that has baffled critics, and there is 
hardly any fiction writer deeply influenced by it who 
has not been accused of disorderly conduct," p. 313. 


Among those able to savor the Scriblerian wit, 
erudition, and linguistic virtuosity of the Memoirs 
was Lichtenberg. He softened Samuel Johnson's 
negative judgment on the Memoirs when he published in 
1782 "Pope's Leben und Schriften" in his 
Gottinqisches Maqazin . 24 The article shows 
Lichtenberg' s guick reaction to publications in 
England which he deemed of importance, as well as his 
particular interest in Pope. His translation follows 
Johnson fairly closely, but is adapted to the 
interests of German readers. Some passages are 
shortened, explanations are interpolated, and many 
footnotes are provided, mainly to explain unfamiliar 
names. The comparative failure of Martinus 
Scriblerus is attributed to the range of learning 
which it presupposes in the reader, and Lichtenberg 
underlines especially the affinity to Don Quixote , 
and also to a French satire by a Mr. Oufle, a 
pseudonym which he explains as an anagram of "le 
fou." 25 

^ 4 Gottingisches Maqazin . 3rd year, 1st part, 
1782, pp. 62 ff., repr. Vermischte Schriften (1844), 
Vol. V, 1844, "Nachricht von Popes Leben und 
Schriften aus Johnson's Prefaces biographical and 
critical to the works of the english poets. London, 
1781," pp. 33-70. 

25 Lichtenberg, Vermischte Schriften (1844), 
Vol. V, pp. 59-60. 


Lichtenberg owned an expurgated Warburton 1764 

edition of Pope in 6 volumes (No. 1662) in which the 

episode of "The Double Mistress" was duly omitted, 

but he studied his favorite English authors also in 

their native country, where he read their works and 

visited places connected with their memories. During 

his second visit he paraphrased a couplet from Pope's 

"Epistle to Dr. Arbuthnot," and excerpted lines from 

the Essay on Criticism which playfully use the word 

"nothing" in the plural: 

such mighty nothings in so strange a stile [sic] 
amaze th' unlearned and make the learned smile. 

(326-27) 26 

Particular interest in the nature of "nothing" is 

shown by substitution of Pope's epithet "laboured" 

with the oxymoronic and more emphatic "mighty." 

In "The Epistle to Dr. Arbuthnot" Pope speaks of 

his detractors in terms to which Lichtenberg and 

Bonaventura supplied several variants: 

There are, who to my Person pay their court, 
I cough like Horace , and tho' lean, am short, 
Ammon ' s great Son one shoulder had too high, 
Such Ovid's nose, and "Sir! you have an Eye — " 
Go on, obliging Creatures, make me see 
All that disgrac'd my Betters, met in me: 
Say for my comfort, languishing in bed, 
"Just so immortal Maro held his head: ' 
And when I die, be sure you let me know 
Great Homer dy'd three thousand years ago. 

11. 115-124. 

zt> Ed. Gumbert, Lichtenberg in England , Vol. I, 
pp. 37 and 159; pp. 231, 606 and 619, Vol. II, p. 170. 


Pope uses here irrelevant idiosyncracies of the 

famous to expose the hollowness of flattery, and of 

those who are concerned with nothing but trivia. 

Lichtenberg adapted the idea to deride the vanity of 

dunces, simultaneously deploring the fact that genius 

is so readily admired, and so seldom studied or 

understood. This paradox occupied his thoughts for 

many years. In October 1776 he wrote: 

He united in himself the attributes of the 
greatest men. He always dropped his head like 
Alexander, and fumbled in his hair like Caesar. 
He could drink coffee like Leibniz, and 
when he settled down in an easy chair he forgot 
food and drink like Newton, and had to be woken 
up like him. His wig he wore like Dr. Johnson 
and one of his fly-buttons was always open just 
like with Cervantes (F 492) . 

In early summer 1798 he repeated the observation, 

this time more concisely and pointedly: 

Like Alexander he held his head to one side, 
like Cervantes he always had his fly open, and 
like Montaigne he was unable to count, neither 
with numbers nor with money (L 471) . 

In the Twelfth Nightwatch, Bonaventura uses the 

same topos, but superimposes a satire on Lavater's 

brand of physiognomy. Kreuzgang meets a poet who is 

pursuing immortality, and eagerly reveals his 


I have tried in every way to advance myself, but 
always in vain; until I finally found I have 
Kant's nose, Goethe's eyes, Lessing's forehead, 
Schiller's mouth and the backside of several 
famous men; I called attention to this and 
arrived; indeed, people began to admire me. 
Next I pushed things further, I wrote to leading 


spirits for old cast-off clothes, and fortune 
benevolently granted that I now stride about in 
shoes in which Kant once walked with his own 
feet, during the day set Goethe's hat on 
Lessing's wig, and in the evening wear 
Schiller's night cap; indeed, I went still 
further, I learned to cry like Kotzebue and 
sneeze like Tieck, and you won't believe what an 
impression I can often thereby bring about; a 
creature lives after all in its body and would 
rather have to deal with this than with the 
mind; it is no shadowboxing when I tell you that 
someone, before whom I once wandered in as 
Goethe, with hat set backwards and hands hidden 
in the folds of my coat, gave me the assurance 
that I amused him more than Goethe's writings. — 
People have been asking me since then to the 
most elegant tables and I get on guite well 
there, (p. 179 and 181) 

Identification with irrelevant characteristics of the 

famous exposes this modern poet as a sham. The 

satire, however, hits also the public which is so 

easily pleased with the mere trappings of fame. 

Of special interest for Lichtenberg and the 

Niqhtwatches is also Pope's "Epistle to Mr. 

Jervas," 27 for it is dedicated to the painter Charles 

Jervas (1675-1739) and deals "With Drvden's 

Translation of Fresnov's Art of Painting ." which had 

appeared in 1695. Pope celebrates in this address to 

his friend the "Sister-arts" of painting and poetry 

which "... each from each contract new strength and 

light," (line 16) and reflect "images . . . from art 

to art" (line 20) . Raphael and Virgil are the 

Poetry and Prose of Alexander Pope , Sel. and 
intr. Aubrey Williams (New York: Houghton Mifflin 
Company, 1969), pp. 101-103. 


standard setters, and Corregio is praised for his 
soft line. These two painters also figure in the 
Niqhtwatches as measures of perfection. 

Lichtenberg showed in his Commentaries to 
Hogarth how much he sympathized with the view that 
all achievements of the intellect and imagination 
should be integrated. Bonaventura continues in this 
tradition, his coupling of art and poetry, though, 
has been interpreted as a romantic trait. While for 
the romantics art was an aesthetic experience, and 
poetry and music were regarded as gates into a realm 
of beauty and harmony that transcends reality, the 
enlightenment viewed the arts as an opportunity to 
expand the human capacity to come to terms with 
reality, and thus improve the tasks of life. As 
literary criticism was rated an influential aid to 
enlarged perception and heightened sensitivity, Pope, 
Lichtenberg and Bonaventura resorted to it 
extensively. All three practice literary criticism 
in the satiric form at which the Scriblerians 

Perhaps the best known example of this rarely 
used satiric sub-genre is Peri Bathous or the Art of 
Sinking in Poetry , which was first published in March 
1728. It is usually credited to Pope, who is thought 
to have written it with some help from Swift and Dr. 


Arbuthnot, for it appeared under the name of Martinus 
Scriblerus and thereby acknowledges strong influence 
from the Scriblerus Club. It works on what Ronald 
Paulson calls "the Swiftian solution" of letting the 
antihero condemn himself, 28 for Martin praises and 
quotes passages from the poets whom Pope has attacked 
in the Dunciad . Their more or less glaring 
weaknesses are deftly demonstrated by lavish praise 
from the narrow-minded and insensitive Martin, but 
also by the strict generic rules he discusses, which 
frame his knowledgeable, but uncomprehending 

Satire has to be attentive to genre. As it 
attacks transgressions and deviations, it needs an 
accepted canon as a model of the desirable, and 
examples which it can recommend. In Peri Bathous the 
title already shows that the treatise takes its lead 
from the essay of the first century A.D. literary 
critic Longinus, On the Sublime . ( Peri Hupsous I , 
which later exerted strong influence on romantic 
poets. Longinus is occupied with "the consideration 
of the means whereby we may succeed in raising our 
own capacities to a certain pitch of elevation." 29 

28 Paulson, Satire and the Novel r p. 103. 
2 9 j 

Ed. Adams, Critical Theory since Plato . 
Longinus, "On the Sublime," pp. 77-102, p. 77. 


Pope achieves his satire by manipulating the 
meanings of "sublime" and "profound." He has 
Martinus to understand these concepts in their common 
meaning of high and low, and while his satiric 
persona guilelessly talks of altitude, Pope is really 
stigmatizing the prevalence of uninformed and 
perverted public judgment. 

"We shall find those who have a taste for the 
Sublime to be very few, but the Profound strikes 
universally, and is adapted to every Capacity," 
Martinus declares, and he goes on to argue that few 
are interested in risking the trouble and fatigue to 
climb high peaks: hence the majority will always be 
content to remain comfortably close to the ground. 
Why then should all honors and dignities "be 
bestowe'd upon the exceeding few meager inhabitants 
of the Top of the Mountain"? 30 

By eguating mountain with Parnassus, Pope can 
sustain his metaphor, and condemn mental inertia by 
letting Scriblerus praise the common-sense of staying 
out of trouble's way and remaining comfortably at the 
bottom. Thus he proves "that the Bathos, or 
Profound, is the natural Taste of Man, and in 
particular, of the present Age" (Chapt. II) . By this 
double talk Pope generalizes his satire to fit any 

30 Poetry a nd Prose of Alexander Pope , p. 391. 


target that comes to mind. But he also provides a 
sophisticated guide for rhetoric, as the the learned 
Martinus displays all the most important figures of 
speech, linguistic embellishments and literary rules 
in a sustained parody of their true meaning. In this 
essay Pope exercises the whole range of traditional 
craftsmanship with which the seemingly artless barbs 
of satire are forged, and which induced Alvin P. 
Kernan to say that the satirist "is always an 
extremely clever poetic strategist and manipulator of 
language who possesses an incredibly copious and 
colorful vocabulary and an almost limitless arsenal 
of rhetorical devices." 31 Peri Bathous epitomizes 
Pope's first principle of criticism, as emphasized by 
Ian Jack, to consider the generic nature of a piece, 
and the intent of its author. 32 In Peri Bathous Pope 
delights in parading his thorough mastery of the 
rhetorical apparatus, which is the essential base for 
successful satire, as persuasion is the satirist's 
task. Several particular touches in their works 
suggest that Lichtenberg and Kreuzgang studied Pope's 

31 Alvin P. Kernan, "The Cankered Muse: Satire 
of the English Renaissance." In Satire: Modern Essays 
in Criticism . Ed. Ronald Paulson (Englewood Cliffs, 
N. J.: Prentice-Hall, 1971), p. 251. 

32 Ian Jack, Augustan Satire. Intention and 
Idiom i n English Poetry, 1660-1700 (Oxford: Clarendon 
Press, 1952), p. 77. 


amusing and instructive work, and profited from the 

Lichtenberg repeatedly attacked Johann Heinrich 
Voss (1751-1826) , known to him since Voss was a 
student and member of the enthusiastic poetic circle 
known as the Gottinqer Hain . Lichtenberg writes 
against the adoration of Klopstock, and the worship 
of genius among these young men, for he shared the 
antipathy of the English eighteenth-century satirists 
against all forms of unsubstantiated enthusiasm. He 
voiced his disapproval in many different ways, but he 
took up his pen when Voss, who translated the Odyssey 
and Iliad (1781-93) , became a philological adversary 
of Christian Gottlob Heyne (1720-1812) , professor in 
Gottingen. Lichtenberg contributed several essays to 
the controversy, casting Voss as a dunce in the 
Scriblerian sense, and attacking him with the 
satirical apparatus which the Scriblerus Club had 
perfected. He acknowledges this connection with the 
exasperated exclamation: "Oh! If only someone would 
write a Dunciad now!" 33 

German readers had, however, never been exposed 
to the constant satiric crossfire which was a by- 
product of English party strife, and though 

JJ Promies, Vol. Ill, "uber die Pronunciation 
der Schopse," pp. 296-308, p. 299. 


Lichtenberg 's darts are somewhat less virulent than 
those which Pope or Swift directed against their 
targets, the his essay was widely criticized as too 
sharp and offensive. 34 

Klopstock had already irritated Lichtenberg 
considerably by proposing a revised German 
orthography, 35 and now Voss attempted to revise Greek 
spelling. Thus the actual occasion of Lichtenberg's 
attack was comparatively trivial, especially as there 
was no immediate danger that any of these proposals 
would be adopted. But the blow was aimed at the 
forces of dullness, the abuses of learning in a wider 
sense, and these were the targets against which the 
Scriblerians had fought before him. In an essay that 
appeared in the Deutsches Museum in 1782, Lichtenberg 
introduces Voss thinly disguised as the principal of 
a school. A young pupil guestions him eagerly on the 
most advantageous application of his new rules, and 
this artless innocence exposes their futility and 

34 E.g. Ich war wohl kluq. dass ich dich fand . 
Heinrich Christian Boies Briefwechsel mit Luise Meyer 
1777-85. Ed. Use Schreiber (Miinchen: Biederstein, 
1963) p. 193, letter of December 16th, 1782. In view 
of Lichtenberg' s satiric stance Luise Meyer wrote on 
January 23, 1785: "There can be nothing more vain on 
earth as such a Gottinger scholar who does not 
acknowledge any other merit and looks down on 
everybody else as poor wretches." 

35 Ed. Joost, Briefwechsel r Vol. I, No. 561, 
letter to Carl Friedrich Hindenburg, 1778, where 
Lichtenberg mimics and ridicules Klopstock' s proposals. 


illogical contradictions. Voss paid his homage to 
the venerated Homer by envisaging him in a gown woven 
of the aurora borealis, and Lichtenberg lampoons this 
metaphoric excess on two different occasions. 36 

Quite similar examples of poetic fancy are 
stigmatized by Pope, who has Martinus propose that 
"when a true Genius looks upon the Sky. he 
immediately catches the Idea of a Piece of Blue 
Lutestring , or a Child's Mantle " and recommends "this 
happy and antinatural way of thinking to such a 
degree, as to be able, on the appearance of any 
Object, to furnish his Imagination with Ideas 
infinitely below it." 37 

In Chapter X Martinus Scriblerus deals with 
"Tropes and Figures: and first of the variegating, 
confounding, and reversing Figures," in Chapter XI 
with those that magnify and diminish. Much of his 
advice is followed in the "Dithyramb on Spring" of 
the Nightwatches . This short piece is written in the 
"Florid Stile," which according to Martinus is most 
"proper to the Bathos, as Flowers which are the 
Lowest of Vegetables are most Gaudy , and do many 
times grow in great Plenty at the bottom of Ponds and 

36 Mautner, Schriften und Brief e . Vol. II, 
404 and 420. 

37 Poetry and Prose of Alexander Pope , p. 396. 


Ditches . " In support Pope has Martinus quote from 
Aphra Behn: "The Groves appear all drest in Wreaths 
of Flowers/And from their leaves drop aromatic 
Showers . . . 1,38 

The "Dithyramb" follows Martinus' advice, 
amplifying the message that spring has arrived in a 
bewildering medley of tropes which pair the trivial 
with the sublime. While Spring is apostrophized, and 
winter introduced as her "gloomy brother," the 
parallelism is immediately disturbed by a new 
conceit: "Blushing in morning's glow, the young earth 
steps forth as a budding virgin" (p. 189) . The 
illogical metaphor — for on what could the earth step, 
if not on itself — recalls Pope's quotation from 
Theobald: " None but Himself can be his Parallel," 
which contains a similar physical impossibility. 39 
The apparition unnerves winter to such a degree that 
he flees "and the shields and armour in which he 
stood encased rattle crashing pell-mell and shatter." 
The inconsistent figures of speech conform to 
Martinus' rules on metaphoric magnification, 
amplification and coupling of opposites. The "florid 
style" which heaps and mixes metaphors is also of the 

38 Poetry and Prose of Alexander Pope , pp. 410- 
20; p. 423. 

39 Poetry and Prose of Alexander Pope , p. 412; 
p. 402, from Theobald's "Double Falsehood." 


type Peri Bathous recommends as particularly 

poetical: "The trees twine their branches in fragrant 

garlands and proffer them to the sky; the eagle 

ascends prayerfully into the sun's splendour as to 

God, and the lark swirls after him, exulting over the 

adorned earth. Every fragrant calix becomes a bridal 

chamber" (p. 189) . When Bonaventura parodies poetic 

effusion, few cliches are missing. 

In a passage especially close to the techniques 

of the "Dithyramb," Martinus commends an author who 

has "amplified a Passage in the 104th Psalm: "He 

looks on the Earth, and it trembles. He touches the 

Hills, and they smoke." 

The Hills forget they're fix'd, and in their 


Cast off their Weight, and ease themselves for 

flight ; 

The Woods , with Terror wing'd, out-fly the Wind , 
And leave the heavy, panting Hills behind . 

As Martinus points out officiously; "You here 

see the Hills not only trembling, but shaking off 

their Woods from their Backs, to run faster: After 

this you are presented with a Foot Race of Mountains 

and Woods, where the Woods distance the Mountains, 

that like corpulent pursy Fellows, come puffing and 

panting a vast way behind them." 40 The sprightly 

steps of the earth in the "Dithyramb" recall this 

Poetry and Prose of Alexander Pope , p. 406. 


passage, and the Insane World Creator alludes to the 
same verse from the 104th Psalm when he looks on the 
world-ball in his hand and speaks of the earthquakes 
which are occasioned there by his casual contact (p. 
153) . In the Nightwatches the earthquake of Lisbon in 
1755 is recalled in this seemingly playful aside. 

Not much that is celebrated in poetry escapes 
Pope's attention, from the sublime manifestations of 
God to "The Inanity, or Nothingness" with which some 
moderns easily fill "every second Verse." 41 Here 
Pope equates "nothing" with the irrelevant, 
insignificant and trivial, which is the dominant 
meaning of the word in eighteenth-century usage. 

Among other parallels is a passage in Chapter IX 
where Pope pays attention to "Imitation, and the 
manner of Imitating." As an illustration, he cites a 
verse in which Virgil describes the Etna together 
with a modern evocation of the same location, which 
Martinus infinitely prefers. The eruption is likened 
to vomit, and Martinus declares in admiration: 
" Horace , in search of the Sublime , struck his Head 
against the Stars; but Empedocles, to fathom the 
Profound , threw himself into Aetna : And who but would 

Poetry and Prose of Alexander Pope , pp. 418-19. 


imagine our excellent Modern had also been there, 
from this Description?" 42 

James Sutherland sees the satirist as focussing 
on one particular issue while ignoring the complexity 
of life, as drawing his strength from drastic 
simplifications. 43 For the writer of menippeas the 
puzzles and unresolvable paradoxes of life are, 
however, the organizing principle of his genre. 
Bonaventura masters all these intricacies, and the 
brevity of his expression is the result of 
comprehensive knowledge, persistent thought and a 
thorough familiarity with the art of rhetoric. 

It was the dearth of these qualities which the 
Scriblerus Club deplored. Pope's Dunciad, first 
published anonymously in 1728, was a direct outcome 
of their reflections on general intellectual lethargy 
and its consequences. A revised and enlarged copy 
was printed in 1743. The Dunciad has a universal 
theme: the impediment and defeat of common sense by 
irrational forces, and the adverse impact of mental 
inactivity on human progress— fears which are 
allegorized in "the restoration of the reign of Chaos 
and Night, by the ministry of Dulness their 

42 Poetry and Prose of Alexander Pope , p. 408. 

43 James Sutherland, English Satire (Cambridge: 
University Press, 1958), p. 18. 


daughter." 44 The theme, though universal, is 
elaborated with so much topicality and so many 
references and allusions which presuppose thorough 
familiarity with Pope's literary contemporaries, that 
the work did not achieve popularity in Germany. 
There it was regarded rather as a precept of how to 
finish off adversaries with invective, and the 
imitations which resulted were mainly feeble and "led 
to no valuable creative work." Price sees Pope in 
Germany mainly as an intermediary of the views of 
Shaftesbury, and as the inspiration behind a vogue 
for clarity and simplicity in expression that was of 
short duration. 45 

Lichtenberg, however, understood the objectives 
of the Dunciad, for he used it as a metonym for the 
narrow-minded shallowness and professional 
incompetence which is epitomized by Martinus 
Scriblerus and his associates. For example, he says 
of Vossens "ill-advised and childish innovations" 
that they belong to the theater or a Dunciad . 46 He 
tried to popularize Pope by various means and to 
counteract the misunderstanding and even ridicule 

44 Poetry and Prose of Alexander Pope f pp. 304-305. 

45 Price, English Literature in Germany , pp. 40- 
41; pp. 71-72. 

46 Promies, Vol. Ill, p. 299. 


with which the English poet had met. It was Pope's 
"Life" that he chose as the first of Johnson's Lives 
of the English Poets for his Gottingische Magazin . 47 
The article ends with the unfulfilled promise to 
discuss Pope's literary merit in the next number. 

Lichtenberg's empathy with Pope, whose physical 
disabilites he shared, may have induced him to 
substitute his own year of birth, 1742, for the year 
in which Pope died. The Royal Society registered him 
as being born in 1744, 48 and he alluded to his 
idiosyncratic relocation of the date of his birth to 
1744 in F 1217. The cryptic sentence contains a 
reference to metemphsychosis, and mentions his 
curious tendency to think of himself "probably" as 
two years younger than his real age. 49 Strangely, 
both men died in their fifty-sixth year. 

The personal world which Lichtenberg kept hidden 
behind his often tantalizingly short allusions still 
remains private. Of his public objectives, however, a 
close second to his didactic purpose to advance and 

47 Lichtenberg, Vermischte Schriften (1844), 
Vol. V, pp. 34-35, see n. with a poem from Voss or 
his friends, in which Pope's misshapen figure is 
ridiculed; pp. 70 ff. 

48 Personal information from the Librarian of 
the Royal Society, Mr. N. H. Robinson. 

49 See also Wolfgang Promies, Georq Christoph 
Lichtenberg in Selbstzeugnissen und Bilddokumenten 
(Reinbeck bei Hamburg: Rowohlt, 1964), p. 7. 


promote knowledge and understanding was his fight 
against incompetence. In this he shared targets, 
goals and satirical weapons with the members of the 
Scriblerus Club, and took especially the Dunciad as 
his model. Correlations to this poem can also be 
traced in the Niqhtwatches where they culminate in 
the Ninth Nightwatch. 



After guiding reader expectation towards the 

Tragedy : Man , and following directly the "Exit 

Prologus" (p. 143) , the Ninth Nightwatch leads into a 

surprisingly different world, and thus presents 

challenges to interpretation, the more so as the 

Clown's introduction ends by raising high hopes for a 

significant sequel: 

I have now more or less heralded myself and in 
any case can now allow the tragedy itself to 
appear with its three unities: of time — to which 
I shall hold strictly, so that man does not 
perhaps stray into eternity; of place — which is 
going to remain fixed in space; and of action — 
which I shall limit as much as possible, so that 
man, that Oedipus, progress only as far as 
blindness, but not in a second plot to 
transfiguration, (pp. 141 and 143) 

The emphasis on literary rules in this passage 

recalls that Oedipus , the tragedy by Sophocles, 

served French classicists and their German followers 

as a paradigm for plot construction and provided the 

model of the three Aristotelian unities: time, place 


and action. 1 While showing his familiarity with the 
neoclassical rules, Bonaventura announces firmly that 
he will apply them in his own way, and take what 
freedoms he finds appropriate. This authorial 
statement is styled as a variation of the frequent 
stage metaphors, and presents new aspects of 
Kreuzgang's constant queries concerning the 
interaction of life and death. By equating 
theatrical time with human time, he implies belief in 
eternity, and gives voice to his vision of life as 
part of a larger and ongoing process. 

In speaking of "Man, that Oedipus," he uses the 
name metonymically as synedoche for human fate in 
general. Oedipus, it will be remembered, was 
determined to find the truth. Distinguished by 
exceptional sagacity and wisdom, he was yet neither 
able to understand and handle his own fate, nor to 
escape the disaster ordained for his house. When he 
finally recognized his true situation, he tore out 
his own eyes in despair, preferring blindness to 
clear sight. Blindness inflicted by the inablility 
or disinclination to bear reality is repeated several 

1 E.g. Heinrich Wilhelm von Gerstenberg, 
Vermischte Schriften , 3 vols. (1815-1816; rpt. 
Frankfurt am Main: Athenaum, 1973), Vol. Ill, 
p. 258. 


times throughout the Nightwatches ; Homer and Ugolino, 

too, suffered this fate. 

What Bonaventura has to say about the three 

unities implies denial of a happy solution; but he 

indicates that a second plot will lead to 

transfiguration. The brief glimpse of better things 

to come is, however, immediately counterbalanced by 

the Clown's sombre talk of masks: 

the more masks there are on top of the other, 
all the more fun it is to pull them off one 
after the other down to the penultimate 
satirical one, the Hippocratic and the last 
fixed one, which no longer laughs and cries — the 
skull, hairless fore and aft, with which the 
tragicomedian departs in the end (p. 143) . 

The appearance of the Clown as the speaker of 
the Prologue has already served as warning that the 
Tragedy: Man cannot be a conventional drama in the 
grand manner. His parting words stress again the 
serio-comic, mock heroic play that might be expected 
to follow. But the seguel is the Ninth Nightwatch 
with an account of the madhouse, and the last time 
Kreuzgang fulfilled his duties as "vice or sub- 
overseer" there. 

The unforeseen change in pace and content 
unsettles, and Jeffrey Sammons feels therefore that 
"it is worth saying that IX is unquestionably the 
weakest chapter in the book. The satirical 
possibilities of describing a set of twenty inmates 

of a madhouse are limitless, but Bonaventura ' s 
ordinarily rich imagination is simply not up to it." 
Sammons also states that "if the continued 
accusations of the critics that Bonaventura is 
careless and lacks the will to artistic perfection 
have any validity," this chapter furnishes the 
proof. 2 

"Abrupt transitions and shifts, ups and downs, 
rises and falls, unexpected comings together of 
distant and disunited things, mesalliances of all 
sorts" are, however, the mark of the menippea, a 
genre which according to Bakhtin "is full of sharp 
contrasts and oxymoronic combinations." 3 This 
literary tradition is followed by Bonaventura, as 
shown, for example, by Kreuzgang's oxymoronic 
guestions at the end of the chapter: "perhaps error 
might even be truth, folly wisdom, death life — 
exactly the opposite of how one at present takes it!" 
(p. 157). 

The beginning of the Ninth Nightwatch is also 
oxymoronic. Kreuzgang confides that "among the many 
thorns of my life I did find at least one rose in 
full flower ... in the madhouse." A variation of 
the Clown's digression on masks follows, this time 

2 Jeffrey L. Sammons, p. 46. 

3 Bakhtin, Problemss, p. 118. 


using an onion-simile to explain that layer upon 

layer has to be stripped off before the essence can 

be recognized: 

Humanity is organized exactly in the manner of 
an onion; layer by layer, one is inserted into 
the other down to the smallest one, in which man 
himself fits quite tinily (p. 143) . 

Progressing from a masked head to humanity, the 

thought is repeated a third time and now projected 

into universal and transcendental proportions, as 

Kreuzgang continues: "So humanity builds into the 

great temple of heaven . . . smaller temples . . . 

and into these still smaller chapels and 

tabernacles." The great world-religion — a concept 

taken from Spinoza — is parceled into ever narrower 

divisions; we get "religions for Jews, Heathens, 

Turks and Christians; indeed, the latter are not even 

satisfied with this, but are boxing themselves in yet 

anew." Likewise is the world as such organized, this 

"general insane asylum out of whose windows so many 

heads are looking, some partially, some totally 

crazed; even in here there are yet smaller madhouses 

built in for particular fools" (p. 143) . These 

variations on the same theme, using metaphors from 

masks to madhouses, assure thematical continuation 

from the Eighth to the Ninth Nightwatch, and 

highlight the allegorical and universal relevance of 

the digression on madness which follows. 


In her investigation of the structure of the 

Nightwatches . Dorothea Solle-Nipperdey acknowledges 

the madhouse scenes as a change of perspective, and 

the preoccupation with masks reveals to her the 

Einschachtelung , boxes within boxes, as an organizing 

principle. 4 Bonaventura conforms to this reading by 

using the word schachteln , to fit as into boxes. In 

A Tale of a Tub , Swift proposes: 

not to digress farther in the midst of a 
digression, as I have known some authors enclose 
digressions in one another like a nest of 
boxes . 5 

As Germans were not as familiar as the English 
with these oriental artifacts, Bonaventura translates 
the simile into the plant world. His use of the 
common and unromantic onion 6 for that purpose has 
baffled some readers. The onion was, however, as 
Lichtenberg records in F 416, already sacred to the 
Egyptians, and as early as 1769 he himself had seen 
in it an emblem of man, his nerves resembling the 

4 Dorothea Solle-Nipperdey, Untersuchungen zur 
Struktur der Nachtwachen von Bonaventura (Gottingen: 
Vandenhoek & Ruprecht, 1959). Palaestra. 
Untersuchungen der deutschen und Englishen Philologie 
und Literaturgeschichte, Vol. 230. 

5 Gullivers Travels et al. , "A Digression in 
the Modern Kind," ( Tale of a Tub . Section V), p. 346. 

6 The German word Zwiebel is ambiguous, and can 
mean onion or plant-bulb. Adelung notes also the verb 
zwiebeln with its double meaning: a) to tease, vex 
and bring to tears, (still in use) and b) to cleanse 
and restore pictures by rubbing them with onion juice. 


roots, and the body in both cases serving for their 
support. Visible is only the pot "in which Man (the 
nerves) has been planted" B 35. The pot corrresponds 
to the masks and layers of artificiality which hide 
true nature from view. 

Kreuzgang's sustained metaphor of boxes within 
boxes finishes with a vision of the world in which 
the partitions between sanity and insanity become 
blurred and life in the madhouse is shown to be but a 
subdivision of "the general insane asylum" without. 
This view is already taken by Swift's mouthpiece, the 
Hack, in the Tale of a Tub . In the "Digression on 
Madness" he voices the opinion that there is no very 
signigicant difference between life within and 
without Bedlam, and for this reason he proposes "a 
bill to appoint commissioners to inspect into Bedlam 
and the parts adjacent" to recruit "admirable 
instruments for the several offices in a state,*****, 
civil, and military." The dots stand for 
"ecclesiastical" . 7 

Just after this proposal, and before a 
description of the lunatics who would be so perfectly 
fitted for high public office, the Hack assures the 
reader that his solicitude is occasioned by "that 
high esteem I have ever borne that honourable 

7 Gulliver's Travels et al. . p. 374. 


society, whereof I had sometime the happiness to be 

an unworthy member." Poised between a discussion of 

the ruling classes and the inmates of Bedlam, the 

remark could refer to either and thus confuses the 

demarcation lines between the two groups even 

further, especially as he continues: 

Is any student tearing his straw in piece-meal, 
swearing and blaspheming, biting his grate, 
foaming at the mouth and emptying his pisspot in 
the spectator's faces? Let the right 
worshipful, the commissioners of inspection, 
give him a regiment of dragoons, and send him 
into Flanders among the rest. 8 

Swift starts conventionally enough with a 
description of expected Bedlam behaviour, which 
people at his time flocked to watch for diversion. 
Then with one of his sudden changes of strategy, he 
draws the connection with a type of behaviour to 
which society takes no exception, especially if it 
occurs far away from home. Affinities between the 
sane and the insane then are demonstrated in 
politics, trade, law, medicine and religion — in fact, 
all the important public services, the traditional 
targets of satire. Whether the Hack is raving mad 
himself, or on the contrary sees the human condition 
more clearly than others, is obscured by his 
indistinct position within the Tale . Clarification 
of this question is left to the reader. 

8 Gulliver's Travels et al. . p. 375. 


Swift's satire mirrors the eighteenth-century 
fascination with madness, of which Hogarth left a 
moving visual record in his Plate VIII of the Rake's 
Progress. Lichtenberg calls the scene "a sepultura 
inter vivos , more properly a burial among the civic 
dead," and he says of the dying Rake, in words which 
echo Swift and foreshadow Bonaventura: "In the 
Microcosmos where he lives now, affairs are ordered 
very much as they are in the extended Macro-Bedlam, 
the world itself; not all the madmen are chained, and 
even the chains have their degrees." 9 

Lichtenberg visited Bedlam himself during his 
second stay in London, and the very few remarks he 
made about this event testify to the lasting 
impression it made on him. In his London diary he 
records the haunting memory of a woman staring out of 
a garret window, as he left the distressing scene. 10 
Such heads looking out of the windows of the insane 
asylum have become a metaphor for the vacuity of life 
in the Nightwatches (p. 143) . 

Lichtenberg's familiarity with English affairs 
is shown in the commentary to Plate VIII by a passing 

9 Ed. Herdan and Herdan, Lichtenberg ' s 
Commentaries . "A Rake's Progress," PI. VIII, p. 264, 
pp. 263-64. 

10 Ed. Gumbert, Lichtenberg in England . Vol. I, 
p. 195. 


reference just by surname to a once popular prophet, 
a Richard Brothers (1757-1824) from Newfoundland, who 
announced the millenium and was confined to Bedlam 
for his pains--a fate repeated in Kreuzgang's 

Hogarth opens the view into the crowded corridor 
of the madhouse. Three cells, numbered as in the 
Nightwatches , are visible in the background; one of 
them is closed and Lichtenberg speculates that this 
may be arranged so that everybody can people it with 
those desperate cases that exhibit the symptoms 
closest to their own nightmares. For Lichtenberg 
there is no doubt that the invisible inhabitant 
suffers from the madness of love. In the Ninth 
Nightwatch this particular affliction is likewise 
shielded from public view: "No. 12, 13, 14, 15 and 16 
are variations on the same street ballad, love," 
declares Kreuzgang, and proceeds without further 
explanations to the next cell where No. 17 is 
absorbed with his own nose and serves as a paradigm 
for "entire faculties" (p. 155) . 

Repetition, one of Bonaventura' s highlighting 
devices, is used to indicate the intensity of 
suffering which love is causing. Silence on the 
subject is another affirmation of the havoc wrought 
by love, if the three times repeated reference to the 


veil cast over the deepest grief by the Athenian 
painter Timanthes is taken as indication. Further 
evidence of the importance of love as a cause of 
human madness is the introduction of the chapter as 
well as its conclusion. Both speak of love with the 
metaphor "Maytime in the madhouse" (p. 143 and 157) , 
but significantly, love itself does not belong in 
this chapter and merits "another nightpiece." While 
madness through love reveals the misuse of the 
emotional sensibilities, the delusions arising from 
philosophy, science and poetry imply the aberrations 
of the intellect. As a German, Bonaventura had to 
couch his satire in private terms, as in the case of 
No. 5, who "held talks which were too reasonable and 
understandable, therefore they have sent him here." 

The case is a variation of Kreuzgang's own 
experience. Seen in conjunction with the opinion 
that "in a state full of nothing but thieves, honesty 
alone would have to be punished with the rope" (p. 
129) the short and seemingly mild comment 
constitutes, in fact, a devastating attack on public 
affairs. No. 6, who "became deranged through the 
derangement of taking seriously a potentate's joke" 
(p. 147) , epitomizes the misery caused by the 
hypocrisy, lies and deceit in public life against 


which men like the Scriblerians, Fielding, Johnson 
and Sterne fought so relentlessly. 

The descriptions of the diseased minds are often 
so short and the allusions so complex that it is 
difficult to see always clearly what Bonaventura 
really had in mind. No. 7 has been "venturing too 
high in poetry" and No. 8 "pushed the emotion in his 
comedies too extravagantly in his days of reason." 
Consequently , they both have been taken for poets. 11 
As one of them "now imagines he burns as flame, just 
as the latter by contrast flows off as water," they 
represent, however, a number of controversies, 
including the opposing systems and theories which 
sprung up during the eighteenth century regarding the 
origin of the earth, and whether water or fire was 
the first principle. The exact details matter 

little. As Kreuzgang sides with Lichtenberg and 
regards all systems as faulty, the passions they 
rouse and the strife they cause appears inevitably 
sterile and unproductive in his view. Swift's 
examination of "the great introducers of new schemes 
in philosophy ... in the academy of modern Bedlam," 
is written in the same spirit. 12 

Solle-Nipperdey , p. 65. 

Gulliver's Travels et al. . pp. 368-69. 


Altogether the Ninth Nightwatch uses the same 

surrealistic methods which Swift handles so 

masterfully in his Tale of a Tub , most of all in his 

"Digression on Madness." Disturbing thoughts are 

presented in an atmosphere confused by doubts, and 

then illuminated by satiric glimpses of tragedy and 

comedy, and by flashes of truth which constantly 

highlight new aspects and thereby add as much to 

confusion as to understanding. All this is part of 

the menippean plan. As the genre maximises reader 

involvement, it leaves loose ends everywhere, 

especially in place of a conclusion. 

When Swift declares of "unmasking" that it 

"has never been allowed fair usage, either in the 

world or the play-house," he uses menippean stage 

imagery in his search for the truth. The illusory 

world of the theatre is, however, left far behind, 

when he talks about reality behind pretenses: 

Last week I saw a woman flayed, and you will 
hardly believe how much it altered her person 
for the worse. Yesterday I ordered the carcass 
of a beau to be stripped in my presence, when 
we were all amazed to find so many unsuspected 
faults under one suit of clothes. 13 

Nowhere does Bonaventura go as far as that, but 

he follows Swift in other details. One of the madmen 

described by the Hack is "gravely taking the 

13 Gullive r's Travels et al . , pp. 372-73. 


dimension of his kennel, a person of foresight and 

insight, though kept guite in the dark; for why, like 

Moses, ecce cornuta erat ejus facies ." 14 To this 

corresponds in the Nightwatches No. 10, he who "barks 

as a dog and formerly served at court" (p. 155) . 

Kreuzgang speaks at the end of his digression on 

madnesss of "a highest idealisation of the Centaur 

nature in man, when the well-satisfied animal below 

allows the higher rider to strut about audaciously" 

(p. 157) . In the title plate to Young's satire, "The 

Centaur not Fabulous," to which Fleig has related the 

passage, this mythological creature tramples the two 

tablets with the Ten Commandments under foot. To 

retain this combination Kreuzgang continues: 

But on closer examination I found everything 
vain and recognized in all this lauded wisdom 
nothing other than the cover which is hung over 
the Mosaic countenance of life so that it not 
see God. (p. 157) 15 

In the frontispiece, the Mosaic tablets are 
metonymic for the morals and decency which mankind 
arrogantly disregards. Swift's interest in the 
biblical reference is occasioned by the double 
meaning of cornutus . which can be translated as 
horned or shining, and fits his design well in either 

14 Gulliver's Travels et al . , p. 375. 

15 "I found everything vain," is the recurrent 
theme of Eccl. 


sense. While Swift quotes Ex. XXXIV, 35, where Moses 
face glows from the encounter with God, Kreuzgang's 
allusion is less clear. Fleig notes that 
Bonaventura ' s metaphor is closer to Ex. XXXIII, 19-23 
than to Ex. XXXIV, 35, but that the quotation is not 
used correctly, and seems to have been 
misunderstood. 16 Indeed, in Exodus Moses veils 
himself when he is speaking with the children of 
Israel, and "when he went in before the Lord to speak 
with him, he took the veil off," (Ex. XXXIV, 33-34). 

The image of the veiled Moses is only implied in 
Ex. XXXIII, 20, where God says to him: "Thou canst 
not see my face, for there shall no man see me and 
live." This verdict seems incompatible with Ex. 
XXXIII, 34, but it confirms Bonaventura 's metonymic 
use of blindness for the inability of man to see his 
true position in relation to the universe, and it 
parallels the allegorical use of Moses' veil by St. 
Paul, and Jacob Bohme in his Mysterium Magnum . 17 

16 Fleig, Literarischer Vampirismus r p. 234-35. 
Fleig adds, that when Klingemann uses Ex. XXXIII, 
19-23 metaphorically in 1828 he does so correctly. 

17 2. Cor. Ill, 13-18, where the veil of Moses 
represents the blindness and ignorance of the 
unconverted, but: "nevertheless, when it all shall 
turn to the Lord, the veil shall be taken away." 
Theosophia Revelata . Vol. XVII, Mvsterium Maanum. cum 
Epitome. Erklarung iiber das erste Buch Mosis, nebst 
dem kurzen Extract. Chapt. XI, "Von der Heimlichkeit 
der Schopfung," summary p. 66. 


Where Swift's penetrating wit reveals through 

verbal ambiguities that the ludicrous and the sublime 

can cohabit in the same expression, Bonaventura 

superimposes references and allusions from diverse 

sources to fuse a wealth of meaning into short 

phrases and even single words. The structure and the 

general themes of his text are built upon the same 

principles. Thus, besides parallels to Swift's Tale . 

others to Pope's Dunciad run also strongly through 

the Ninth Nightwatch. Book the Fourth of the Dunciad 

starts by setting a mood akin to that of the 

Niqhtwatches : 

Yet, yet a moment, one dim ray of light 
Indulge, dread Chaos, and eternal Night! 
Of darkness visible so much be lent, 
As half to show, half veil, the deep intent. 

As in the Dunciad , Chaos and Night are often 

evoked in the Niqhtwatches . According to ancient 

belief, reiterated in Paradise Lost , they rule that 

part of the universe in which God has not yet 

established his order. The oxymoron "darkness 

visible" is used by Milton as a description of hell, 

and most of Pope's readers would recognize the guote 

without prompting. Before Pope draws his Fourth Book 

to an end, he shows 

Skulking Truth to her old cavern fled, 
Mountains of casusistry heaped o'er her head! 



In the Ninth Nightwatch, Kreuzgang' s "own little 

fool's chamber," the final room that is shown, and 

the only one into which the reader is admitted, 

corresponds to this cavern-retreat. In the terms of 

the Dunciad, Kreuzgang represents the opposition to 

the Daughter of Chaos, Queen Dulness, who establishes 

her rule at the end of Pope's satire: 

Lo! thy dread empire, CHAOS! is restored; 
Light dies before thy uncreating word: 
Thy hand, great anarch! lets the curtain fall; 
And universal darkness buries all (653-66) . 

With Kreuzgang cast in the role of Truth, 

epitomizing the triumphant dunces falls to his 

opponent Dr. Oehlmann. It is clear that he is an 

important part of Bonaventura ' s design, for he is 

singled out by bearing the only proper name in the 

text apart from the nightwatchman himself. Moreover 

the importance of this name is stressed by its 

alternative appearance in a common and a Latinized 


Latinizing their names was an accepted practice 
among German scholars, whose language of discourse 
was Latin until well into the seventeenth century. 
The works of Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz (1646-1716) 
were still written in that tongue, and even Christian 
Thomasius (1655-1728) , a progressive philosopher at 
the university of Halle, and the first German 


university professor to lecture in the vernacular, 
used the Latin version of his name. 

In eighteenth-century satiric usage, however, 
latinizing a name is emblematic for self- 
aggrandizement and vainglorious obfuscation, as 
demonstrated by Martinus Scriblerus, the satiric 
mouthpiece of the Scriblerus Club, who represents the 
misuses of intelligence and knowledge. 
Oehlmann/Olearius is similarly characterisized by his 
name. His dedication to self-interest conforms to 
the command of Pope's Dulness to her children: 

My sons! be proud, be selfish, and be dull. 
Guard my prerogative, assert my throne (582-83) . 

In the microcosm of the asylum he also corresponds to 

the "Tyrant supreme" who 

shall three estates command, 


He has learned "but to trifle," (457) and 
personifies the main characteristic of those who 
abuse the gift of intellect because they "See all in 
self , and but for self be born" (480) . He is also 
an empty head that consoles "with empty sound," (542) 
hears "the voice of fame" (543) rather than that of 
duty, and tranquilizes himself and others with "the 
balm of Dulness" (543) . 

The names Oehlmann and Olearius are both still 
in use, though not common. Various parallels have 


been suggested; Gillepsie points to Goethe's lawyer 
Olerairus in Gotz von Berlichingen , 18 "Sanitatsrat 
Ohlhafen" in Jean Paul's Siebenkas has also been 
proposed as a possible connection. As Ohlhafen — oil 
pot — refers to the unctions and potions freely 
dispensed by quacks, the combination with the 
distinguished title "Sanitatsrat" is therefore 
designed to cast doubts on the doctor's competence. 

Lichtenberg appreciated Jean Paul's techniques. 
He enjoyed and eagerly read his works, including 
Siebenkas, as far as they appeared during his life 
time (e.g. L 87) . The name, therefore, could well be 
inspired by Jean Paul. The antagonist who would fit 
the personality of Dr. Ohlmann in Lichtenberg 's 
perspective is the Swiss Dr. Johann Georg von 
Zimmermann (1728-95) , a court physician in Hanover. 
He had been knighted by the emperor, and had 
ingratiated himself at many courts, including that of 
Frederick the Great, whom he attended at his death. 

He was among the very few — Johann Heinrich Voss 
was another—whom Lichtenberg ever attacked by 
name. 19 The controversy started when Zimmermann 
convinced Lavater that his Physiognomische Fracrmente 

18 Gillespie, p. 251. 

19 Mautner, Lichtenberg. Geschichte seines 
Geistes . "Bildnis seines Geistes," p. 35. 


should be printed. While Lichtenberg became in time 
convinced that Lavater really meant well and acted in 
good faith, he always saw Zimmermann as one who 
neither cared for truth nor science, and would use 
any opportunity to further his own advantage. 

Lichtenberg 's initial objections to Lavater 's 
unscientific theories had been answered by Zimmermann 
in an article published in the Deutschen Merkur by 
challenging Lichtenberg publicly to submit his own 
silhouette for analysis. This thinly veiled allusion 
to his severe physical deformity failed to sting 
Lichtenberg to a response, but it aggravated his 
aversion to a man who resorted to such tactics in a 
dialogue concerned with scientific and general 
truth. 20 

Besides attacking Zimmermann in publications, 
and latinizing his official title privately to 
Hofmedicus (e.g. F 744, F 928, F 992), Lichtenberg 
denounced him as a pretentious writer, (e.g. F 985) 
and referred to him as Don Pomposo. 21 He also 
sketched out various plans for satires against him; 
in all of them Zimmermann appears as vainglorious and 
empty headed. This role is expressed in the name he 

20 Mautner, Lichtenberg. Geschichte seines 
Geistes, p. 175. 

21 Promies, Vol. IV, p. 738. 


is given in some of these satiric fragments, Don 
Zebra, an ass distinguished among the common herd by 
his striped and ostentatious coat. 

In J 616 Lichtenberg speaks of "Don Zebra's 
versteinerte Prose," using the word "petrified" which 
occurs so freguently in the Niqhtwatches ; like 
Bonaventura he uses it as metonym for lack of sense 
and animation. In J 667 an epitaph is suggested for 
Zimmermann: "Grand philosophe, grand Medecin et grand 
fou." Close to this is J 664, which describes a 
relationship which parallels that between Kreuzgang 
and Olearius: "He despises me, because he does not 
know me, and I despise his accusations, because I 
know myself. " 

Whoever has stood model to Olearius, he is 
presented as an archetypal hypocrite and anti-Faust, 
the intellectual who uses his gifts and opportunities 
exclusively for personal advancement, and cares only 
for the prestige of office and nothing for the 
responsibilities. He has no interest whatsoever in 
the welfare of those entrusted to his care, and thus 
represents all the types against whom the 
Scriblerians directed their satiric wit, including 
statesmen and politicians. Bonaventura 's attack on 
this Scriblerian target is conducted in a micro- 


Dunciad for which he has chosen the form of a mock 
Socratic-dialogue . 

Swift refers to this tradition when he 
parodically reduces the Socratic afflatus to inf latus 
in his Tale . 22 Kreuzgang also alludes to Plato's 
theory on madness, when he speaks in the Second 
Nightwatch of his own "superpoetic hours," and 
recommends his "nightwatchman's horn as a genuine 
antipoeticum . " As so often, he ends his general 
discourses with satiric critigue of the moderns in 
the manner of Swift, for he continues, "This remedy 
is cheap and of the greatest importance as well, 
since people in the present day follow Plato in 
considering poetry to be a rage, with the sole 
difference that he derived this rage from heaven and 
not from the booby hatch" (p. 37) . 

In the Seventh Nightwatch Kreuzgang combines a 
clever satire on law with further ridicule of 
contemporary writers, when he argues that 
"inspiration is to be eguated with drunkenness," but 
that it "absolves from punishment if the drunken 
person has not put himself in to this condition 
culpose, which obviously is not to be assumed in the 
case of an inspired man, since inspiration is a gift 

2 Gulliver's Travels et al. r p. 361. 


of the gods" (p. 123) . It is this defense which lands 
him in the madhouse. 23 

There, Kreuzgang closely watches his fellow 
sufferers and familiarizes himself with their case 
histories, but none of them respond to his presence. 
The Socratic dialogue reguires a partner eager for 
instruction and keen to learn the truth. While 
Socrates meets such companions, Kreuzgang is not so 
lucky. All he encounters is indifference. Cells 
represent the total withdrawal of each individual; 
everyone is committed to his own fixation, and there 
is not a spark of the interaction through which the 
Socratic method takes effect. Kreuzgang' s lively 
discourse elicits no response from anybody. It turns 
into a lonely monologue to which Olearius only reacts 
by occasionally shaking his head. 

Like the cases under his care, this physician 
has no interest in anyone but himself. He is 
dedicated to the smooth running of his institution, 
but not to the welfare of those entrusted to him. 
The lack of communication and cooperation, and the 
tragic isolation of man is demonstrated in this 

Cf. Eccl. IX, 16-18, starting" Wisdom is 
better than strength: nevertheless the poor man's 
wisdom is despised, and his words are not heard." 


Bedlam-microcosm by the grotesque charade of the 
offical medical round. 

Only the Insane World Creator, one of the cases 
whom Kreuzgang introduces to the ineffective 
physician, speaks at length. His attitude, however, 
admits of no discussion. He is case No. 9, a further 
recall of Swift's chapter on madness. His monologue 
deals with the important problems which agitate 
Kreuzgang, but it provides a reversed perspective on 
them: the view of an outsider watching the antics of 
man from a detached distance. Before No. 9 goes into 
any details he declares: "things have got more and 
more crazily confused on the globe, and I don't know 
whether I should laugh or be vexed over it" (p. 149) . 
Bonavntura confirms thereby the serio-comic duality 
of his whole satire, even at the beginning of a 
speech which allows very little scope for humor and 
complacency, for it puts "ultimate philosophical 
positions ... to the test." It is thus central to 
the whole text, for "the menippea is a genre of 
'ultimate questions'." 24 

The World Creator develops two types of 
philosophical positions: those pertaining to 
religion, and those concerning natural science. The 
inverted scale from which the enigmatic madman 

24 Bakhtin, Problems , p. 115. 


contemplates the world as through his "magnifying 
glass" (p. 149) is brilliantly sustained by continued 
use of diminutives — mainly translated by use of the 
adjective little — and by a time scale in which 
seconds stand for centuries. In this context, man's 
achievements predictably pale into insignificance. 
The boldness of the speech consists in ascribing to 
God a large part of the blame for the failure. When 
he declares, "This tiny speck, into which I blew a 
living breath and called it man, does now and then 
annoy me with his little spark of godhead which I 
implanted in him in overhaste and over which he 
became deranged," he reestablishes not only Plato's 
connection between madness and divinity, but also 
casts doubt on God's omnipotence and the absolute 
perfection of his plans. The real identity of this 
provocative speaker is carefully concealed by the 
mad-house allegory. 

To reconcile the idea of a benevolent and 
omniscient creator with the prevalence of misery and 
suffering on earth is one of the problems to which 
eighteenth-century religious philosophy devoted much 
thought. Bonaventura's World Creator dismisses most 
of the ingenious answers when he declares: "the speck 
fancied itself to be god and constructed systems in 
which it admired itself" (p. 151) . He does not 

suggest any better solutions himself, for that is not 

the aim of the menippea. The satirist merely sets 

out to draw attention to problems, to disturb 

complacency, and, if at all possible, to induce 

thoughtful reactions. The "Monolog of the Insane 

World Creator" is admirably suited to this purpose, 

for it confirms that mankind's tragedy is to be 

afflicted with "the premonition of god which it 

carries about inside," and which "causes it to be 

more and more profoundly confused, without in the 

process ever reaching a clear decision" (p. 149) . 

Though this verdict is taken as final, hope is 

not entirely destroyed. By affirming the value of 

"the gay flower world, with the children who play 

among them" (p. 149) , youth and innocence are left as 

reason to believe that the exhausting cycle of 

rebirth and renewed folly may yet be broken. What 

Bonaventura casts in doubt is not God's creative 

power, but his continuing interest in a particular, 

and rather insignificant star, a thought which has 

already troubled the psalmist: 

When I consider thy heavens, the work of thy 
fingers, the moon and the stars, which thou hast 
ordained; What is man, that thou art mindful of 
him? and the son of man, that thou visitest him? 

Ps. VIII, 3-4. 

The same short psalm also praises the regenerative 

potential of children to which Bonaventura alludes 


repeatedly: "Out of the mouth of babes and sucklings 
hast thou ordained strength" (Ps. VIII, 2) . 

The first part of No. 9's monologue recognizes 
man's unquenchable thirst for knowledge as a 
consequence of the divine spark implanted in him. It 
also acknowledges the narrow restrictions under which 
this divine gift can be exercised, by a brief 
allusion to puppets. After declaring: "I should have 
left the doll uncarved!" (p. 151), the Creator 
mentions various possibilities of dealing with the 
problem, and in passing shakes the Argument of 
Desire, on which the enlightenment placed its hopes 
for salvation. 

After the metaphysical proof of God and 
immortality — that the soul is different in nature and 
consistency from the body, and therefore of necessity 
imper i shable— was undermined by Locke and 
demonstrated as untenable by his successors, the 
moral argument was introduced instead. Johnson 
resorts to it in his Rasselas : "Since the common 
events of the present life happen alike to the good 
and bad, it follows from the justice of the Supreme 
Being, that there must be another state of existence, 
in which a just retribution shall be made, and every 
man shall be happy and miserable according to his 


works." 25 This argument was considerably weakened by 
Shaftsbury, with his emphsis on the completeness of 
the secular moral system, and by Hume's rejection of 
a possible separation of good and evil, for he argued 
that Heaven and Hell suppose two distinct species of 
men, the good and the bad, but that the greatest part 
of mankind "float betwixt vice and virtue." 26 

Johnson was much preoccupied with these 
problems. So was Bonaventura, as demonstrated by the 
twice repeated tale of the two brothers, in which the 
traditional twin division of the good and the evil 
side of the same personality is hopelessly intermixed 
and confused. When his World Creator speaks of man, 
the mote who "does often dream so very pleasantly of 
immortality and thinks, just because it dreams such a 
thing, it must come true" (p. 151) , he mentions in 
one breath the comforting eighteenth-century doctrine 
and the counter-arguments and doubts about it. 

The Argument of Desire "relies on "man's general 
dissatisfaction with the world, whether that world 

Samuel Johnson, The History of Rasselas 

Prince of Abyssinia . 1759. Chapt. II. (Editions of 

this work are numerous and chapters short, sometimes 
less than a page. Only Chapter numbers are therefore 
guoted) . 

26 Robert G. Walker. Eighteenth-Century 
Arguments for Immortality and Johnson's 'Rasselas' . 
ELS Monograph Series Nr. 9 (University of Victoria 
B.C., Canada, 1977), p. 25. 


were just or unjust," and concludes from the general 
and persistent human wish for infinitely more than 
can be obtained in this life that there has to be a 
point beyond life towards which such overpowering 
yearning must be directed. "A moral God who would not 
allow man to desire in vain" has still to be 
presupposed, but the emphasis of this argument is now 
entirely "on the hopes and fears of men, attributes 
which might be verified empirically." 27 

Kreuzgang is possessed by the desire on which 
this argument is based, and he is maddened by the 
human inablitity to assert with purely rational means 
the existence of "a moral God who would not allow man 
to desire in vain." This is also the answer Kant 
gave in his investigation of the potential and 
limitations of the human mind, which he laid out in 
his three Critiques . The final of these, the Kritik 
der Urt eilskraft (1790) is divided into a "Critique 
of Aesthetic Judgment" and a "Critique of 
Teleological Judgment," which takes away the comfort 
of Aristotle's teleological expectation that a final, 
but as yet unknown cause, will justify all seeming 
injustice and confusion on earth. Like Bonaventura, 
Kant does not reject this possibility out of hand. 
He merely determines that it must remain a hypothesis 

27 Walker, p. 26. 


and cannot ever be proved by human means, for the 
order which humanity tries to impose on nature and 
history is only a reflection of its own need for 
accountability, and no proof of realities in the 

When the monologue is brought to a halt, 
Kreuzgang emphazises its importance by the 
Scriblerian method of condemnation. "What an 
infamous insanity that is," he interjects. "If a 
rational man came out with the like, people would 
surely confiscate it" (p. 151) . 

The seemingly spontaneous interposition explains 
why doctrinal doubts had to be uttered by one who 
enjoyed the traditional freedom of fools, and 
explains why satirists of all ages needed this 
archetype. The voice of insanity serves also the 
purpose for which Swift uses his Hack: it deprives 
the reader of clear instructions for interpretation 
and allows undecided conclusions. This is even more 
apparent in the second part of the "World Creator's" 
monologue, which deals with the implications of the 
newly emerging natural sciences on the view man has 
to take of himself and his role in the universe. 

Lichtenberg was officially professor of 
experimental physics, and the physicists and their 
new systems are first to be considered by the madman, 


while he is toying with a child's ball in his hand, 
reminiscent of Lichtenberg 's vision in his dream of a 
scientist. 28 This brief and intensely poignant story 
raises the topical doubt of whether man is far- 
sighted enough to interfere in nature without 
destroying what he seeks to order and investigate, 
and Lichtenberg includes himself in the satire by 
taking over the role of the well-meaning, but 
fumbling scientist, much as Kreuzgang takes upon 
himself the part of the dedicated but disoriented 
philosopher. Interpretation of the dream is 
facilitated by the description of the old man whose 
benevolent serenity, and the deference which it 
induces in the beholder, leave no doubt about his 

In Bedlam no such help is given, for the 
intention of the menippea is to stir up doubts, not 
to calm them. The only clues are contained in the 
monologue itself, and in the toying with the ball, 
which shakes the earth and affords — as the Creator 
well knows — "a broad field for the teleologists" (pp. 
151 and 153) . 

Geology was also one of Lichtenberg ' s subjects, 
but the earthguake of Lisbon 1754 was an epochal 
event for the whole of Europe, because it showed the 

28 Promies, Vol. Ill, pp. 108-11, "Ein Traum." 


flaws in religious complacency as well as in the 
enlightened reliance on progressive improvement of 
the human condition. The monologue refers to this 
landmark in the history of European thought, but 
refrains from taking active part in the controversy 
by cautiously interjecting the gualifying "perhaps," 
when the Creator speaks of the confusion which is 
aroused on earth "whenever I perhaps play ball and 
thereby a few dozen countries and cities collapse and 
a number of the ants are smashed" (p. 153) . 

The wish "to be as gods, knowing good and evil" 
(Gen. Ill, 5) is exposed in all its presumption at 
the end of the monologue when the Creator exclaims: 
"By the devil! It is almost vexatious to be God, when 
such people carp at you! — I'd like to sguash the 
whole ball!" . . . (p. 151). While the remark, and 
indeed the whole monologue, stresses God's power to 
put an end to man's endeavors at any time, it does 
not belittle these efforts, nor ridicule science in 
the manner of Swift. As was the case with 
Lichtenberg, Bonaventura does not doubt the validity 
of the natural sciences, only man's ability to deal 
with them in a responsible manner. 

Just when the seriousness of No. 9's incoherent 
discourse becomes apparent and oppressive, Kreuzgang 
cuts in with a reminder that the scene of action is 


after all a madhouse, and the speaker is only a fool. 
He does not, however, administer this sedative 
without acknowledging the enigmatic speaker as a 
Titan, and a thinker whose world view resembles that 
of Fichte (p. 153) , the philosopher whose thoughts 
Lichtenberg studied at the close of his life, as 
shown by the final notes in his last waste book, and 
by his last letter. 29 

None of these highly relevant issues elicit the 
slightest interest from Dr. Olearius, who shakes his 
head but refuses to get involved. Only at the very 
end of the chapter does he prescribe for Kreuzgang 
"much exercise and little or no thinking at all, 
because he was of the opinion that my delusion had 
come about through extravagant intellectual feasting, 
just as in the case of others indigestion arises 
through too copious physical enjoyment" (p. 157). 
Mental and physical intake, and the process of 
digestion belong to the satiric metaphors of the 
menippea since Petronius' "Feast of Trimalchio" , the 
longest and best known episode of his Satyr icon . 
Appropriately the real theme of this "Feast" is taste 
and tastelessness . 

Significantly for the number of chapters in the 
Niahtwatches , only fragments of the fifteenth and 

29 Promies, Vol. IV, p. 1011. 


sixteenth book of the Satyricon have survived. 
Lichtenberg owned them in German, English and Latin 
versions (Nos. 146-48). Swift in particular made 
good use of Petronius' eating imagery. His 
definition of digressions as "late refinements in 
knowledge, running parallel to those of diet in our 
nation," and his repeated references to "olios" 
exploit also the derivation of satire from satura, a 
Roman dish, a type of cold salad in which a mixture 
of ingredients were combined, and made more palatable 
by plentiful addition of oil and vinegar. 

Before Swift elaborates this satura metaphor in 
his "Digression in Praise of Digressions," he uses 
the simile of "an Iliad in a nutshell to prove that 
even famous works can be empty of content, and can 
resemble "a nutshell in an Iliad . " 30 Kreuzgang 
paraphrases the simile in the Ninth Nightwatch when 
he speaks in connection with Schlegel about "a grand 
Iliad, issued in sixteenmo" (p. 153). 31 

30 Gullivers Travels et al. . p. 356. 

31 Schelling, long the leading candidate for 
Bonaventura, married Schlegel 's wife Caroline in 
1803; hence the remark was interpreted as expressing 
his resentment. Herman Michel, who thinks that 
Caroline Schlegel-Schelling also had a hand in the 
writing, supports this view. Michel, pp. lxiii-lxiv. 
Lichtenberg knew the brothers Schlegel well, see 
Promies, Vol. II, p. 712. He was also well 
acquainted with Caroline's family, for her father, 
Johann David Michaelis (1717-1791), was professor of 
philosophy and oriental languages in Gottingen. 


Literary critique, including the mentioning 
of particular names to epitomize general failings and 
abuses, is an organizing principle of Pope's Dunciad , 
as well as of Bonaventura who likewise castigates 
general shortcomings through examples from literature 
and from the world of writers. Like the Dunciad and 
all Scriblerian satires, Bonaventura combines 
"extraordinary philosophical universalism and a 
capacity to contemplate the world on the broadest 
possible scale," with "moral-psychological 
experimentation," and a special "concern with current 
and topical issues." 32 For the author of the 

Nightwatches , unlike the Scriblerians, scientific 
progress is an integral part of this comprehensive 
pattern. His Ninth Nightwatch ends very much like 
the Dunciad . with the representative of Queen Dulness 
in firm control , exulting in his own ignorance and 
lack of imagination. But Bonaventura introduces a 
positive twist, for Olearius only thinks he has the 
last word. Unperceived, Kreuzgang establishes his 
own superiority, and demonstrates his contempt by the 
remark: "I let him go." 

By ending inconclusively, the chapter defies the 
attempts of Dulness to establish absolute rule. 
Kreuzgang rescues from the encounter an unrepentant 

32 Bakhtin, Problems , pp. 115-18. 


attitude and unshaken belief in Kant's precept that, 
while teleology cannot be proved, it has to be 
retained as the only feasible working hypothesis. 
There is no other way than to labor in the limited 
light of the divine spark which drives man towards 
goals he may sense, but not see. 

This interpretation agrees with Kreuzgang's 
reference to the bust of Socrates and to 
"Scaramouch's folly." Scaramouch is a sub-species of 
the fool from the commedia dell' arte , less popular 
than Harleguin, whose attire the centaur in Young's 
title plate is wearing. Justus Moser in his Harlekin 
oder Verteidigung des Grotesk-Komischen recommends 
the use of exaggerated and even grotesgue situations 
to draw attention to abuses which are so common that 
they are no longer noticed, and are complacently 
accepted. Of Scaramouche he notes as main 
characteristic the honest joy with which he laughs 
behind the back of those who have hit and misused him 
because he has outwitted them by wearing the fool's 
dress of Harleguin, and his persecutors do not know 
who he really is. 33 Lichtenberg found this passage 
so relevant that he copied it verbatim (KA 237) . 
Moser' s characterization confirms Scaramouche as the 
perfect comic complement to the tragic Socrates, and 

33 Moser, Samtliche Werke . Vol. 2, p. 328. 


reveals the two names as synonyms for heroic and 
mock-heroic, tragic and comic defiance of the rule of 
ignorance. Kreuzgang spurns officialdom and the 
ruling opinions with the assertion: "It is my idee 
fixe that I consider myself more rational than the 
reason deduced in systems and wiser than professional 
wisdom" (p. 157) . 

Mirrored in the micro-cosmos of the lunatic 
asylum, the Ninth Nightwatch--Bonaventura / s 
digression on madness — represents the tragedy of man 
as the self-centered misapplication of the divine 
gift of reason. Using the grotesgue exaggeration 
recommended by Moser as the organizing principle of 
the chapter, Bonaventura draws attention to the 
devastating, and at the same time ludicrous 
misappropriation of the divine spark that has been 
entrusted to mankind. Kreuzgang 's refusal to accept 
Oehlmann's cure indicates an alternative to the 
triumph of Dulness, for it indicates congruence with 
Bohme's mystic belief, that suffering willingly borne 
must lead to redemption. A further mental attitude 
which can transcend the realm of Dulness is love, 
which for this reason needs a different chapter. 
Kreuzgang concludes therefore by "saving another 
nightpiece for . . . Maytime in the madhouse." 



The Augustan satiric tradition was continued by 
Fielding, who acknowledged his debt to Scriblerian 
techniques by repeated use of the pseudonym 
"Scriblerus Secundus." 1 Like the Augustans he took 
as his models the best of the classic writers from 
whom, like the Scriblerians, he learned a superior 
and fluent command of rhetoric. While master of all 
rhetorical techniques, Fielding placed particular 
emphasis on that part of the Aristotelian tradition 
which insists that every case has at least two sides, 
and hence should be considered under dual aspects. 

This doubling developed new dimensions in 
Fielding's writing. He evolved it not only into a 
confrontation of good and evil persons, but carried 
duality into his characters, most of whom exhibit 
mixed motives and mingled natures in accordance with 
the precepts of Shaftesbury and Hume. Fielding also 

1 F. Homes Dudden, Henry Fielding. His Life, 
Works, and Times. 2 vols. (Oxford: Clarendon Press 
1952), p. 60, n. 9. 



mixed genres, and freely combined elements from quite 
different literary categories. In drama he therefore 
preferred the double focus of tragi-comedy , and in 
prose he fused elements of drama, romance, satire, 
essay, and newspaper reporting. 2 The satiric 
orientation of this mixture is described in the 
introduction to Tom Jones (I. i.). Called a "bill of 
fare to the feast," it paraphrases the original 
meaning of satire, which is satura, and plays on the 
metaphors of food and digestion, inherent in the 
satiric tradition. These images are not restricted 
to this initial chapter, but freely used in many 
different contexts. 

The satiric spice with which Fielding binds his 
many literary ingredients together is applied in the 
spirit of Shaftsbury's idea of ridicule as test of 
truth. 3 Shaftesbury's maxim, much quoted during the 
eighteenth century, is paraphrazed by Kreuzgang who 
combines, as so often, insights from literature with 

Brian McCrea, "Romances, Newspapers, and the 
Style of Fielding's True History," Studies in English 
Literature 1500-1900 r 1981, Vol. Ill, pp. 471-480. 

3 Anthony Ashley Cooper, Third Earl of 
Shaftesbury. "A Letter Concerning Enthusiasm," (1708) 
Section II. In Enlightened England . Rev. ed. Ed. 
Wylie Sypher (1947; New York: W. W. Norton, 1962), 
p. 201, "How comes it to pass, then, that we appear 
such cowards in reasoning, and are so afraid of the 
test of ridicule?" 


impeccable scientific imagery when he declares in one 

of his aphoristic comments: 

A satire is like a touchstone, and every metal 
that brushes against it leaves behind the token 
of its worth or worthlessness. (p. 117) 

How this test of irony is employed by Fielding, and 

penetrates into his style and diction, is shown by 

Glenn W. Hatfield, who investigated Fielding's use of 

irony and recognized it as "a way of speaking truth 

in a corrupt medium," namely a language in which 

terms like honour, love and truth were commonly so 

often used to denote the very opposite of what they 

were originally intended to convey. Hatfield places 

satire on medicine and law prominently into this 

context, and states that "Fielding's ridicule of 

medical and legal jargon, of ranting sermon oratory 

and of other verbal sins he associates with the 

professions is nearly always relevant to larger 

social and ethical evils." 4 This expanded vision is 

shared by Kreuzgang, and is particularly noticeable 

in his attack upon the professions in the address to 

his "Beloved fellow citizens" in the Sixth Nightwatch 

(pp. 101-07). 5 

4 Glenn W. Hatfield, Henry Fielding and the 

Language of Irony (Chicago: University of Chicago 

Press, 1968), p. 6, p. 127. 

5 Cf. Eccl. IX, 16-18. 


Brian McCrea has found that Fielding's doubling, 
through integration of styles, and thus of values, 
extends even to "a balanced and conjunctive sentence 
structure that is best described as symmetrical," and 
that this syntactic twinning allows "persistent 
linking of two types of value in a symmetrical 
frame." Bonaventura is too concise to allow himself 
the leisure of such balanced periods. He achieves 
thematic and stylistic counterpoints by a staccato 
technique in which episodes, ideas and sentences 
rapidly follow each other, and frequently change 
direction, but are bonded by satire, which unifies 
incongruent ingredients. This method enables him to 
present a concentrated and often paradoxical amalgam 
of ideas, for Bonaventura, like Fielding, "certifies 
serious comedy as a meaningful bridge for the gap 
between divine and secular worlds." 6 

Fielding's elegant periods create the detachment 
which is necessary for such a panoramic view of the 
human condition; but his most important stylistic 
device — the authorial voice — is so filled with 
empathy for all the characters that Fielding's satire 
looses the Swiftian sting and softens with feeling. 
While Fielding's pervading aim is to expose hypocrisy 
and unmask pretentiousness, he shows also a 

6 McCrea, Romances . p. 477, p. 480, and p. 477. 


willingness to bear with human shortcomings, as these 
are an integral part of the dual nature of man. 
Fielding's hallmark is therefore a "superb balance 
between satire and sentiment, 1,7 and, corresponding 
with this double focus, one of his major artistic 
accomplishments is the ability to discuss serious 
concerns in light and comic tones. 8 

Lichtenberg admired Fielding's "philosophy of 
life," (F 1169) and owned his works in 12 vols. (No. 
1643) . His interest in the English author preceded, 
however, this London edition of 1775. Entries from 
Notebooks A to L show appreciation and understanding 
of a writer of whom Lichtenberg said: ". . . his 
foundling is certainly one of the best works ever 
written. Had he known how to arouse just a little 
more empathy for Sophia, and had he been at times 
somewhat more concise in his authorial remarks, 
perhaps no other work would surpass it" (F 1074). 9 

7 Brian McCrea, Henry Fielding and the Politics 
of Mid-Eighteent h-Centurv England (Athens: University 
of Georgia Press, 1981), p. 167. 

8 J . Paul Hunter, Occasional Form: Henry 
Fielding and t he Chains of Circumstance (Baltimore: 
Johns Hopkins University Press), 1975, p. 104. 

9 Lichtenberg showed, however, considerable 
appreciation of Sophia by bestowing her name on 
married women whom he wanted to honour especially 
See Promies IV, No. 490, p. 634, letter to Johann 
Gottwert Muller, March 31, 1785. "Reccomend me to 
your dear Sophie: I know now no better name for your 
dear wife." 


This entry is from August or September 1778; the 

diary of 1771, which was written almost entirely in 

English, has a remark for June 30th in that language 

which also attests to Lichtenberg 's special fondness 

for Fielding: 

I read the 3 d volume of the foundling [sic] and 
part of the 4 th . I know no english [sic] book 
of the belles lettres kind, which I should like 
better to be the author of than Tom Jones, Mr. 
Adams 10 preferred the Spectator. Mr. Adams 
knew Fieldings [sic] son at school, he tells me. 
he was a good genius, and looked always dirty. 11 

A fortnight later, on July 14th, the diary relates, 

also in English: "Lockt up in my room, finished 

Joseph Andrews." It was not the first reading, for 

J oseph Andrews figures already in A 99 and Parson 

Adams in B 290. D 666 recalls a passage from the 

Voyage to Lisbon . This entry bears the title "To be 

cast in plaster or gold" and combines a number of 

quotations, many of which are in English. Without 

10 On his return from the first journey to 
England, Lichtenberg escorted Charles Adams and his 
brother Jacob from London to Gottingen, where both 
remained under his special care until their return 
home in July 1772. Ed. Joost, Briefwechsel . Vol. I, 
No. 69, p. 127, letter to Joel Paul Kaltenhofer, July 
18, 1772, also letters Nos. 70 and 71. Mr. Adams is 
further mentioned in letter No. 545, which reveals 
some of the non-academic problems Lichtenberg had to 
face in his capacity as a tutor. 

11 Promies, Vol. II, p. 606. Lichtenberg's 
interest in Henry Fielding and his background 
extended to his blind brother, Sir John Fielding, 
whose activities he watched while in London during 
1774-75, see also ed. Gumbert, Lichtenberg in 
England . Vol. I, p. 90. 


giving chapter and verse, it also includes a sentence 

from the last pages of Joseph Andrews , a position 

which bestows symbolic significance on the remark: 

Undressing to Fanny was properly discovering, 
not putting off ornaments (IV. xvi.). 

Lichtenberg here touches upon a recurrent motive not 

only in Joseph Andrews , but in Fielding's entire 

oeuvre. Mark Spilka has drawn attention to The 

Champion for January 24, 1740, where "Fielding . . . 

cites Plato to the effect that men would love virtue 

if they could see her naked." Spilka demonstrates 

how states of undress and nakedness eguate in 

Fielding's first novel with unmasking and revealing 

the truth. Thus when Joseph is discovered naked on 

the road in an episode which parallels, though 

negatively, the biblical parable of the Good 

Samaritan, Fielding tests the willingness of each of 

the passengers in a passing stagecoach "to accept 

Joseph as he is. for what he is — a defenseless human 

being. 11 12 

Bonaventura likewise uses nakedness in this 
Platonic sense, when he reveals as the only treasure 
in a strangely discovered chest the "stark naked" 

12 Mark Spilka, "Comic Resolution in Fielding's 
'Joseph Andrews'," (from College English , XV, Oct. 
1953, pp. 11-19) repr. Henry Fielding und der 

englische Roman d es 18 . Jahrhunderts . Ed. Wolfgang 

Iser (Darmstadt: Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft 
1972) , pp. 93-94. ' 


little Kreuzgang (p. 65) . The German term 

mutternackt recalls the discovery of Joseph Andrews 

in a ditch after a robbery, "sitting upright, as 

naked as ever he was born" (I. xii.) , and emphazises 

the symbolism of the event. Its emblematic nature is 

further underlined by the parents with whom Kreuzgang 

is united at the end of the work, just like Joseph 

and Tom also find their true parents only at the end 

of their histories. 

In the "Second Woodcut" (p. 61) Kreuzgang refers 

with modesty to his original state as "sans all 

moveable property," ohne alle fahrende Habe . a legal 

term meaning without any possessions. His state is 

therefore emblematic for uncorrupted human potential, 

just as it is envisaged by Dr. Harrison, the 

enlightened paragon in Fielding's last novel Amelia : 

The nature of man is far from being in 
itself evil; it abounds with benevolence, 
charity, and pity, coveting praise and honour, 
and shunning shame and disgrace. Bad education, 
bad habits, and bad customs, debauch our nature, 
and drive it headlong as it were into vice. The 
govenors of the world, and I am afraid the 
priesthood, are answerable for the badness of 
it. Instead of discouraging wickedness to the 
utmost of their power, both are too apt to 
connive at it (IX. v.). 

Kreuzgang is discovered like Tom Jones in "the beauty 

of innocence" (I. iii.), and their foundling status 

sets both boys apart from social convention. In their 


different ways they can, therefore, represent mankind 
rather than a particular social strata. 

The somewhat static personality of Tom Jones, 
and of most other characters in Fielding, has been 
discussed by many critics. In the Nightwatches , 
instead of Fielding's contemporary plot, we are 
confronted with abstracts parables, and reflections 
on reflections; Kreuzgang is even more static and 
does not change at all through his nocturnal 
experiences. 13 Following Bergson, Maynard Mack sees 
such changeless personalities as the mark of the 
comic writer, who "subordinates the presentation of 
life as experience ... to the presentation of life 
as spectacle." 

Mack's description of comic techigues in 

Fielding illuminates also Bonaventura ' s methods, for 

Mack sees tragic action as self-discovery, and comic 

action as self -exposure, with 

"the emphasis ... on the permanence and 
typicality of human experience, as projected in 
persistent social species whose sufficient 
destiny is simply to go on revealing themselves 
to us. For this reason, the great comic 
characters of literature whether Shakespeare's, 
Fielding's, or Dickens' do not essentially 
change. They are enveloped in events without 
being involved by them, and remain immutable 
like Fielding's lawyer, who has been 'alive 

13 E.g. Paulsen, Nachtwachen, p. 175, 
"Bonaventura does not want to know anything, for he 
already knows everything." 

these four thousand years' and seems good for as 
many more. ,l14 

Such tentative affinities in themes, structure 
and outlook abound between Fielding's work and the 
Nightwatches . They show how closely related the 
world of Bonaventura is to the eighteenth century and 
to Fielding, who himself drew extensively on the 
knowledge and epistemology of his age, and in turn 
had his writings copied and diffused by innumerable 
followers, especially in Germany. 15 This is true 
even, or rather particularly , where the Nightwatches 
appear most steeped in romantic coloration, for 
precisely those elements which are primarily regarded 
as typical for the German romantic period correspond 
most closely to important focal points of Fielding's 

A * Maynard Mack, " Joseph Andrews and Pamela , " 
(1948) repr. Fielding. A Collection of Critical 
Essays . Ed. Ronald Paulson, Englewood Cliffs, N. J. : 
Prentice-Hall, 1962, pp. 52-58, p. 58, p. 57. 

15 E.g. Blanchard records that Amelia was 
reprinted in Frankfurt in 1763, 1764, 1768; in 
Leipzig in 1781, 1781-82, 1797. Frederic T. 
Blanchard, Fielding the Novelist . A Study in 
Historical Criticism (1926; New York: Russel & 
Russel, 1966), p. 181. Price, English Literature in 
Germany , p. 182. reports that of the at least 283 
German novels published between 1774 and 1778, 50 or 
more bore as chief or secondary title Geschichte des 
. . . or Geschichte der . . . . in clear indication 
of the influecne of Joseph Andres and Tom Jones on 
German letters. 


Echoes of Cervantes have been variously noted in 

Bonaventura ' s text, and, as Tieck translated Don 

Quixote at the turn of the century (1799-1803), 

interest in Cervantes is often claimed as a 

charcteristic of the German romantics. In England, 

however, Cervantes was much quoted during the 

enlightenment, most of all by Fielding, whose 

admiration for the Spanish author and indebtedness to 

him are facts to which he himself draws constant 

attention. Fielding's early play, Don Quixote in 

England , was rewritten and performed in 1734, and 

passages referring to Cervantes occur frequently in 

his works. Particularly well known are references in 

Joseph Andrews . III. i., "Matter prefatory in praise 

of biography," and in Tom Jones . XIII. i., "An 

Invocation." Here Fielding apostrophizes "Genius" by 

summming up the inspiration of tragi-comic satire: 

Come, thou that hast inspired thy Aristophanes, 
thy Lucian, thy Cervantes, thy Rableais, thy 
Moliere, thy Shakespeare, thy Swift, thy 
Marivaux, fill my pages with humour till 
mankind learn the good nature to laugh only at 
the follies of others, and the humility to 
grieve at their own. 

Lichtenberg shared Fielding's predilection for 
these writers who left their imprint on Western 
literature, and in particular on the menippea. 16 How 

16 Lichtenberg' s familiarity with Pierre 
Marivaux (1688-1763) is shown by an anecdote about 
him recorded in J 232. 


closely his artistic values coincided with Fielding's 
is also shown by their joint admiration of Hogarth. 17 
Fielding, as Moore observes, "is defining his own art 
in terms of that of the painter." 18 With Lichtenberg 
and Bonaventura such visual experience has become a 

Esteem for Garrick, and veneration of 
Shakespeare, to whom both found access through 
Garrick' s interpretations, is another bond between 
Fielding and Lichtenberg. Fielding pays tribute to 
Garrick' s genius by decribing the same scene which 
Lichtenberg chose as the focal point of his Letters 
from England : Hamlet's confrontation with the ghost 
of his father. This famous account of Garrick' s 
impact on an audience occurs in Tom Jones ( VI. v.), 
where Tom visits a performance of Hamlet with his 
companion Partridge who "was all attention." As 
Partridge refuses to accept that Garrick is not 
really seeing a ghost, and is not genuinely terrified 
by the apparition, and as he contends that the actor 
is no good because anybody would behave like him in a 

17 Among many examples is Fielding's description 
of Mrs. Partridge ( Tom Jones . II, iii.): "Whether she 
sat to my friend Hogarth or no, I will not determine, 
but she exactly resembled the young woman who is 
pouring out her mistress's tea in the third picture 
of the Harlot ' s Progress . " Lichtenberg refers to this 
passage in his Commentary (Promies, Vol. Ill, p. 762). 

18 Moore, p. 108. 


similar situation, he offers the highest praise of 
Garrick's art. The incident reveals the ideal which 
the eighteenth century admired: to explore and get to 
know man's nature, not individually, but generally. 
Partridge is taken by Lichtenberg as just such a 
type, when he speaks in F 1096 of "a Partridge or a 
bad minister." 

Partridge's fear-ridden "imagination 
possessed with the horror of an apparition, converted 
every object he saw or felt into nothing but ghosts 
and spectres" (VII. xiv.), and provides a foil to 
Tom's bravery and common sense. Partridge also 
affords Fielding the opportunity for enlightened 
comment on the presumed existence of ghosts, which 
caused much controversy during the eighteenth 
century. 19 Bonaventura ' s learned footnote, 
referrring to an article of the subject, deprives his 
own ghosts of all romantic terror and immediacy, and 
banishes them to the realm of intellectual 
speculation (p. 239) . 

Dr. Johnson's remarks sum up the position of 
many enlightened intellectuals: "It is wonderful that 
five thousand years have now elapsed since the 
creation of the world, and still it is undecided 
whether or not there has ever been an instance of the 
spirit of any person appearing after death. All 
argument is against it; but all belief is for it.'" 
Boswell, p. 900. For German interest in the topic cf. 
Friedrich Schiller, Per Geisterseher (1787-89) . 


Like ghosts, Shakespeare was also differently 
experienced by the enlightenment and by the 
romantics. The latter admired him as a genius who 
created his own world and freely broke the neo- 
classic rules. For the former it was his unigue gift 
to "copy nature" and create so may characters, all of 
them unmistakably individual and yet also clearly 
recognizable as universal prototypes. 20 This made 
him a favorite of those eighteenth-century thinkers 
who were committed to the Socratic command "Know 
thyself." Like Bonaventura and Lichtenberg, Fielding 
refers to him freguently in this sense, bestowing by 
Shakespeare's testimony the seal of truth on his own 
observations. The introspective Hamlet is for 
Fielding, as for Lichtenberg and Bonaventura, the 
favorite, but he also draws freely on Shakespeare's 
other work. He describes the nocturnal appearance of 
Tom in bandages streaked with blood "so that the 

The orientation toward generality was also 
one of Lichtenberg's dominant tendencies. Fielding 
gives it perfect voice when he describes a sentinel 
who fainted after having witnessed the appearance of 
Tom Jones, looking worse than the "bloody Banguo" and 
adds: "I whish with all my heart some of those actors 
who are hereafter to represent a man frighted out of 
his wits had seen him, that they might be taught to 
copy nature instead of performing several antic 
tricks and gestures for the entertainment and 
applause of the galleries." (VII. xiv.) 

Lichtenberg's literary criticism of writers who 
imitate famous works without having observed reality 
for themselves is here presented in the form of stage 


bloody Banquo was not worthy to be compared to him" 
(VII. xiv.). Bonaventura uses the same reference. 21 

Fielding's "Comparison between the world and the 
stage," records and develops the long tradition of 
stage metaphors, and expands and paraphrases the 
speech by Jacques, the fool in As You Like It . (II. 
vii.) which also compares "all the world" to a stage. 
Fielding added many new facets to this imagery, and 
translated also the philosophical and religious 
dilemma of the dual nature of man into a theatre 

A single bad act no more constitutes a villain 
in life than a single bad part on the stage. 
The passions, like the managers of a playhouse, 
often force men upon parts without consulting 
their judgement, and sometimes without any 
regard to their talents. Thus the man as well 
as the player may condemn what he himself acts; 
nay, it is common to see vice sit as awkwardly 
on some men as the character of Iago would on 
the honest face of Mr. William Mills 

(VIII. i.). 

Don Juan's stupefaction at the end of the Othello 
tragedy in the Fifth Nightwatch reflects this 
character assessment precisely. 

From the start of his digression on the world 
and the stage, Fielding acknowledges his indebtedness 
to tradition: 

Don Juan is both attracted and scared by a 
veiled woman "as if the riddle of his life were 
hidden behind these veils, and ... he feared the 
moment when they would fall as though a bloody ghost 
of Banquo should rise from them" (p. 89) . 


The world hath been often compared to the 
theatre, and many grave writers as well as the 
poets have considered human life as a great 
drama, resembling in almost every particular 
those scenical representations which Thespis is 
first reported to have invented and which have 
been since received with so much approbation and 
delight in all polite countries. (VII. i.) 

Aristotle is then credited with calling the stage "an 

imitation, of what really exists." Fielding 

enumerates "reasons which have induced us to accept 

this analogy between the world and the stage," among 

them "the brevity of life." In support of his own 

opinions, he quotes Shakespeare, and also part of "a 

poem Deity , published about nine years previously and 

long since buried in oblivion — proof that good books 

no more than good men do always survive the bad." 

World history is here called "the vast theatre of 

time," and the deity is addressed as the stage 

director. The spectacle ends with the total 

dissolution of the world: 

Then at Thy nod the phantoms pass away; 
No traces left of all the busy scene, 
But that remembrance says — 
the things have been . " 

To this display of stage metaphors Fielding adds: 

In all these, however, and in every other 
similitude of life to the theatre, the 
resemblance hath been always taken from the 
stage only. None, as I remember, have at all 
considered the audience at this great drama. 

Fielding's chapter on "A comparison between the 

world and the stage" is a key treatise on this 


subject. Bonaventura studied it to good advantage 
and turned its theories into practice. He adopted 
the viewer perspective recommended by Fielding, and 
used it repeatedly, as when he confides to the 
reader: "I always step before an alien unusual human 
life with the same feelings as before a curtain 
behind which a Shakespearean drama is to be produced" 
(p. 67). 

The drama which he thus introduces concerns an 
abortive suicide attempt; when "everything had 
already been finished, right up to the falling of the 
curtain . . . the man's arm, already lifted for the 
fatal stroke, suddenly grew rigid" (p. 69) . At the 
end of the episode Bonaventura sums up an incident 
rich in tragic potential, Shakespearean allusions, 
and theatre metaphors by directly addressing the 

Take the matter from its lighter side; for it is 
amusing and worth the effort to attend this 
great tragicomedy, world history, as spectator 
up to its last act, and you can give yourself 
that guite unigue pleasure finally, when at the 
end of all things, as sole survivor, you stand 
above the general deluge upon the last 
projecting mountain peak to hiss the entire 
production on your own hook, and then wild and 
angry, a second Prometheus, hurl yourself into 
the abyss." (p. 73) 

As in the poem guoted by Fielding, the stage analogy 

is retained consistently to the conclusion, but by 

following Fielding's suggestions, Bonaventura imbues 


it with urgency and dramatic desperation, and turns 
the poem's tone of elegiac resignation into one of 
disturbing defiance. 

Stage metaphors are more to Fielding and 
Bonaventura than mere stylistic embellishments. They 
are an important distancing device which removes the 
action from the confusion of everyday life, and 
presents it already edited: abstracted, reflected and 
restructured. On a stage, incidental detail has been 
eliminated and the outcome is already pre-ordained. 
Nothing can be changed and the action calls therefore 
not for active intervention, only for intellectual 
participation. Besides the menippea, the English 
Rehearsal Plays also made ample use of theatre 
emblems, and Fielding delighted and excelled in this 

Hamlet , which Bonaventura uses as one of the 
many frames within which he displays his ideas, was 
already similarly employed by Fielding in his satiric 
Tragedy of Trag edies or the Life and Death of Tom 
Thumb the Great (1731). As J. p. Hunter has shown, 
echoes of Shakespeare's tragedy permeate the whole 
play. Their intended effect is not parody, rather a 
reminder of the dramatic tradition at its best, 
against which lesser writers can be set off and 


satirized. 22 For this reason satires, and especially 
the manippea, need frequent referal to patterns of 
perfection. Fielding, Lichtenberg and Bonaventura 
are particularly inventive and versatile in 
integrating literary highlights and insights into 
their own work. 

Hunter has also followed the overtones of 
Fenelon's satiric prose epic Telemaoue 23 in Tom 
Jones . He found that the similarities extend to 
structure as well as to themes and incidents. Both 
works consist of 18 books divided into 3 equal parts, 
and in each section the hero gets involved with an 
"earthly" lady. 24 in similar fashion Fielding also 
uses Don Quixote. Le Sage's Gil Bias . Scarron's Roman 
comique, Marivaux' Marianne and Le paysan parvenu , 
besides the classic examples of the Homeric 

Hunter, p. 29. 

23 Lichtenberg owned the work in a Spanish 
edition of 1756 (No. 1678) . His high appreciation of 
Fenelon is expressed in L 211, where he suggests that 
every king and regent should use his Directions pour 
la conscience d 'un Roi as a guidebook, and refers to 
Herder's remarks about this treatise. 

In L 186 Lichtenberg recommends that important 
thinkers should reveal their methods of study and 
preparation. He refers to Dr. Johnson as having also 
recommended this as a routine that would benefit 
humanity, and quotes him — in English — "such is the 
labour of those who write for immortality." The note 
closes with the question: "How, for instance, was 
Telemach written?" 

24 Hunter, pp. 133-35. See also Rita Terras for 
Bonaventura ' s use of this technique. 


Odyssey . 25 Virgil's Aeneid is deliberately echoed in 
the last and more sombre novel Amelia , as Fielding 
himself points out in his The Covent Garden Journal 
(Nr. 8, January 28, 1752). So is the Book of Job, 
and biblical allusions and paraphrased parables are 
frequent in all his novels. 

Fielding, as Bonaventura after him, is not 
imitating or quoting at random, but aims at an 
consolidation of Western tradition to create what 
Hunter calls a "telescopic, universal and epical" 
panorama of life. 26 This vision aims at an 
integration of all possible aspects, and was also 
favoured by Lichtenberg, who added a scientific 
dimension to Fielding's combination of insights from 
literature, philosophy and art. In the menippea, 
however, the reader is expected to fuse these 
components. Thus "juxtaposition of contrary points 
of view" to expose "the conflict of comedy and 
gravity" and to give "the illusion of independence 
from the medium and agent of narration" is to Glenn 
W. Hatfield a deliberate device with which Fielding 
induces the reader to evaluate each situation for 
himself, and to test his own ethic against the 

25 Homer Goldberg deals particularly with these 
affinities in his The Art of Joseph Andrews (Chicago: 
University of Chicago Press), 1969. 

26 Hunter, p. 216. 


eventualities of life. 27 The same technique is used 
by Bonaventura, though in his concise and condensed 
text the changes between sentiment and cynicism, 
comedy and tragedy occur much more rapidly than in 
the leisurely narration of Fielding. 

The independent and clearly defined authorial 
voice, one of Fielding's remarkable innovations, is 
given ample scope in his novels, especially in Tom 
Jones . where it takes over the introductory chapters 
of each book altogether. In the Nightwatches a 
corresponding voice becomes audible only in 
Kreuzgang's occasional asides, which have, however, 
the same function: to lead the reader into the frame 
of mind with which the author wants him to approach 
the text. 28 

Apart from the authorial interpolations on a 
variety of topics, which are mainly presented in the 
guise of literary and generic discussions, Fielding 
also presents digressions of a different nature. 
These, like his main narration, are centered on 
parabolized human interest stories, like the rather 
lengthy tale of "The Man on the Hill" in Tom Jones 
(VIII. xi-xiv.). Bonaventura ' s digressions are 

27 Hatfield, p. 203. 

28 E.g. Wolfgang Iser "Die Leserrolle in 
Fielding's 'Joseph Andrews" und 'Tom Jones'." Ed. 
Iser, pp. 282-318. 


short, and like his text, abstract and loose-jointed. 
To draw the connections, fill in the background, and 
supply the missing pieces is a task left to the 
reader. Recurrent themes are the signposts which 
help in this task. 

Among Bonaventura ' s leitmotifs are masks and 
unmasking, themes also predominant in Fielding from 
his first comedy, Love in Several Masks (1728) and 
his first published poem, The Masquerade (1728) to 
his last novel Amelia, where a masguerade and its 
conseguences play a prominent part (X, ii-iv.). 
Closely akin to stage metaphors, the mask has an 
emblematic function. It is metonymic of dissembling 
and hypocrisy, that sin against the spirit of truth 
which Fielding persistently attacks as one of the 
main causes for human disasters, small and domestic 
as well as public and great. 

Also stage-related is the marionette imagery for 
which the Nicrhtwatches are particularly renowned. 
This aspect is freguently assessed in conjunction 
with romantic interest in puppet performances, 
notably Kleist's essay "uber das Marionettentheater" 
(1810). 29 Puppetry flourished, however, in England, 
particularly during the eighteenth century. George 
Speaight states that 

29 E.g. Gillespie, Introduction, p. 19. 


few periods of history can have been so 
sympathetic to the puppets as the eighteenth 
century, and never before could the puppets so 
naturally hold up the mirror of ridicule to 
their masters. Never before or since have 
puppets played quite so effective and so well 
publicized a part in fashionable society; never 
before or since have puppet theatres so 
successfully made themselves the talk of the 

Speaight lists Hogarth and Swift among the keen 
observers of puppets, and notes that The Rehearsal at 
Gotham (1754) by John Gay, the Scriblerian, adapts 
the puppet-show incident from Don Quixote to English 
conditions. 30 The same episode is used and updated 
by Fielding in Tom Jones (XII. v.). In Don Quixote 
the audience takes passionate sides and becomes 
seriously involved in the miniature world, though not 
with quite such disastrous consequences as in the 
Fifteenth Nightwatch. 

Fielding uses the puppets to burlesque the world 
of the theatre, which to him is but a metonym for the 
world at large. Bonaventura turns the events in the 
Fifteenth Nightwatch into a satire on the French 
revolution, but he, too, universalizes his immediate 
target into a repeat pattern of human folly. Like 
Fielding, he achieves this double vision by 
interjecting general remarks. Thus after reporting a 

George Speaight, The History of the English 
Pu PP et — Theatre (London, 1955; New York: John de 
Graff, n.d.), pp. 92, 177, and 173. 


rousing address to his "Dear Countrymen" verbatim, 

Kreuzgang remarks dryly, as to himself: 

On the whole, whenever it happens not to be 
suffering from idees fixes , mankind is an 
honest, simple beast and easily accommodates 
itself to absolute contraries; indeed, I believe 
it capable, though today it has rent the light 
bond which fettered it, of tomorrow letting 
itself be cast in chains with the same 
enthusiasm, (p. 227) 

All three incidents focus on spectator reaction, 

which is particularly spontaneous towards puppets, 

whose secret Speaight sees in "their ability to 

arouse the sympathetic imagination of their 

audience. 1,31 

Both Fielding and Bonaventura also use puppet 
imagery to demonstrate manipulation of people and 
events, and to highlight the limitations of free 
will, just as Kant has done at the very end of the 
First Part of his Critique of Practical Reason . 
There he argues that if human reason were ever 
powerful enough to understand God and eternity with 
its dreadful majesty, human actions would necessarily 
be reduced to mere mechanical reactions, so that as 
"in a marionette play, everybody would gesticulate 
well, but the figures would lack life." 32 

31 Speaight, p. 269. 

32 Immanuel Kant, Kritik der praktischen 
Vernunft (1788; Stuttgart: Reclam, 1973), pp. 232-33 
Erster Teil, II. Buch, 2. Hauptstiick, IX. Von der der 
praktischen Bestimmung des Menschen weislich 


Fielding uses puppet-metaphors similarly in 

Jonathan Wild (1743, III. xi.), when he satirizes 

Robert Walpole, the once all powerful minister: 

To say the truth, a puppet-show will illustrate 
our meaning better, where it is the master of 
the show (the great man) who dances and moves 
everything, whether it be the King of Muscovy 
or whatever other potentate alias puppet which 
we behold on the stage; but he himself keeps 
wisely out of sight, for should he once appear, 
the whole motion would be at an end. 

After elaborating the simile somewhat further, 

Fielding draws the connection to the world at large: 

It would suppose thee, gentle reader, one of 
very little knowledge in this world to imagine 
thou hast never seen some of these puppet-shows 
which are so freguently acted on the great 
stage . 

Jonathan Wild contains also a chapter "Of hats" 
(II, vi.) in which hats are satirically substituted 
for the political disguises people assume to gain 
power. Fielding states his purpose right at the 
beginning: "As these persons wore different 

angemessenen Proportion seiner Erkenntnisvermogen. 

The sentences following directly after the 
marionette metaphor end and sum up the Kritik . They 
are especially relevant to the interpretation of the 
Nightwatches. Kant states here that to follow the 
moral law within will not assure any worldly 
advantages; but adhering to it allows man a view into 
the world beyond, albeit only a dim and indistinct 
one. All efforts of reason cannot achieve any 
certainty only a "very dark and ambiguous view into 
the future." The wisdom which created us cannot be 
understood in human terms, but has to be venerated as 
much in what it has revealed to human reason as in 
what it is withholding. 


principles . i.e. hats . frequent dissensions grew 
among them." Bonaventura uses the conceit at the end 
of the Ninth Nightwatch, where he ridicules three of 
the most frequently attacked non-political targets in 
eighteenth-century satire, the medical, legal and 
religious professions. He identifies them with their 
respective doctor's hats and proposes to wear them 
all three like "a holy trinity," so he can reap in 
one person the benefits which these professions 
derive from the dead and dying (p. 155 and 157) . 

Even more than in his novels, Fielding applied 
the puppet-mirror of ridicule when writing for the 
stage. Several of his own plays were favorites with 
the Puppet-showmen of his day, and in 1730 he had 
even introduced Punch and Joan into his own "Puppet- 
Show," The Pleasures of the Town , which comprised the 
final act of the Author's Farce — though this satiric 
little drama was designed for human performers, not 
marionettes." The Author's Farce , presents in a 
comic vein the problems of a poor poet, beleaguered 
by worries and creditors. It satirizes the world of 
the theatre and of writers, but uses literary 
critique to hit at targets in the world at large, 
especially in politics. 

"In March 1748 — at the height of his activities 
as editor of The Jacobite's Journal and while he was 


doubtless writing furiously to finish Tom Jones — 
Fielding opened his own puppet theatre in Panton 
Street under the name of ' Madame de la Nash ' , " as 
Martin Battestin found out. Fielding, as Battestin 
notes, "seems always to have delighted in the comedy 
of Punch and Joan and to have considered them, guite 
seriously, as a valid and vital, if minor, part of 
the satiric tradition of the English theatre." 33 

Though Lichtenberg's notes on any one subject 
are intermittent, and the full extent of his interest 
in Fielding can only be surmised from fragmentary 
comments, L 602 and 606, which refer to The 
Historical Register for the Year 1736 . show that he 
was reading Fielding's plays even at the end of his 
life, and that he studied their style and 
expressions. 34 The marionette play in The Author's 
Farce follows human action. This seguence is reversed 
in the Nightwatches , where the puppet interlude 

33 Martin C. Battestin, "Fielding and 'Master 
Punch' in Panton Street." Philological Quarterly , 
XLV, I, January, 1966, pp. 191-208, p. 192, p. 198. 
Punch corresponds to the German Hanswurst . the figure 
banned from the stage by Gottsched in 1730 in his 
Versuc h einer critischen Dichtkunst vor die 
Deutschen, where use of the monologue was also 
vetoed. Gillespie translates Hanswurst in the 
Nightwatches as "Clown." 

34 Cf. L 602: "Fielding has actually written a 
Preface to a Dedication. S. Vol. IV. p. 153." 

L 6 °6: " Under the rose (sub rosa) is also in 
Fielding (Historical Register Works T. IV. p. 189)." 


precedes the realistic presentation, thereby 
accenuating the tracic, rather than the farcical 
aspects of the events. 

Bonaventura ' s twice repeated love triangle has 
been taken as parody or burlesgue of Schiller's Braut 
von Messina which was written in 1801/02. 35 Rivalry 
between brothers for a bride was, however, long 
before that date a favorite theme of the Sturm und 
Drang, and Schiller himself had treated it already in 
his first tragedy The Robbers (1779/80) . The theme 
of fraternal competition for the same girl may have 
been suggested to him by Thomas Otway 's The Orphan 
(1680) , in which the passion of twin brothers for the 
same young woman leads to a triple death, for 
Schiller's tragedies parallel other Otway plays. Don 
Carlos (1787) accords thematically with Otway's Don 
Carlos (1676), and the Revolt of Fiesco in Genua 
(1782) with Otway's Venice Preserved (1682) . 

Thomas Otway, a prototype of the poor, starving 
poet, whose frustrating life is vividly described by 

35 See Schillemeit, p. 29. Paralells were first 
noted by R. M. Meyer, "Nachtwachen von Bonaventura," 
Euphorion. Leipzig: Carl Fromme, 1903, Vol. 10, 
London: Johnson Reprint, 1967, pp. 583 ff. H. Michel 
expressed doubts that Bonaventura 7 s aim should have 
been mere persiflage. He notes: "As so often in the 
Nightwatches, one feels that there must be more 
beneath the surface than meets the eye," p. xxxiii. 
See also Gillespie, Introduction p. 7, and n. 16, pp. 

Johnson, is mentioned several times by Fielding, who 
may himself have taken the brotherly rivalry in Tom 
Jones from The Orphan , especially as this particular 
tragedy is twice mentioned in the novel. 36 Though 
the theme of the antagonistic brothers goes back to 
Genesis, and was treated in depth by Milton in 
Paradise Lost , the biblical story lacks the topos of 
the contested bride. Price actually credits the 
remarkable popularity of this tragic human interest 
story during the Sturm and Drang to Fielding. 37 

While the hostile brothers were a favorite theme 
in the German literature of the late eighteenth 
century, Lichtenberg ' s interest in the double 
extended much beyond individual case histories to 
every aspect of life and human nature. He even 
planned a satrical novel about Siamese twins. As it 
was to be called Per doppelte Prinz 38 (J 1138, 1142, 

In VIII. x., Partridge meets with an old 
woman who "answered exactly to that picture drawn by 
Otway in his Orphan . " In XI. v., another old woman 
"resembled her whom Chamont mentions in the Orphan . " 

37 Price, English Literature in Germany , p. 192. 

38 The title Per doppelte Prinz recalls Varro's 
manippea Bimarcus . The Double Marcus , "also known in 
English as 'The Pouble Varro' and 'Varro Split'." 
Bakhtin gives a summary of this satire, p. 117 and 
n. e. A "dialogue between the two Marcuses, that is 
between a person and his conscience, is in Varro 
presented comically." Varro's work helps to round 
off the contours of Lichtenberg 's much too short and 
inconclusive satiric outline. 


1144 ) it was presumably meant to carry political 
overtones, which may explain why the idea was never 
further developed. Lichtenberg 's pursuit of polarity 
extended to scientific considerations, (e.g. J 1512) 
and to the ultimate questions which are already 
evoked in Hamlet's monologue. J 153 asks whether 
perhaps body and soul, too, correspond to a dual 
pattern, like man and wife, and so many other doubles 
which God has distinguished by special favour. 

Albert Schneider specifically comments on the 
symbolic significance of Lichtenberg's view of 
dualism, and he has shown that Lichtenberg's twin- 
ideas were of considerable influence on the German 
romantics, especially on E. T. A. Hoffmann, with whom 
the Doppelganaer in literature is usually 
associated, 39 though Lichtenberg's Double Prince and 
Bonaventura's antithetical brothers, and nightly 
alter egos considerably predate Hoffmann. 

Lichtenberg, as Price reports, was sometimes 

called the German Fielding. 40 Fielding's biographer, 

Wilbur L. Cross also recounts that 

Lichtenberg, whose zeal for Fielding knew no 
bounds, declared that he was 'the greatest 
novelist in the world'; and not long before his 
death designed a novel on the pattern of 'Tom 

39 Schneider, "Le Double Prince," pp. 292-99. 

40 Price, English Literature in Germany , p. 188 
see also Promies, Vol. IV, p. 731, No. 892. 


Jones'. Though the work was never completed, 
Lichtenberg was known, because of his trenchant 
wit and vast knowledge of men displayed in his 
miscellaneous writings, as 'The German 
Fielding'." 41 

Lichtenberg's opinion that most German writers 
were deficient in wit as Sterne and Fielding 
practised it, and that such wit was impossible 
without thorough learning ( Wissenschaft ) is given in 
F 263. This appreciative remark displays an 
understanding of Fielding's scope and background 
knowledge, and a penetration of English satiric 
technigues, which was guite exceptional at the time. 

Lichtenberg 's own writing always aims at brevity, 
and at the utmost concentration of meaning. He does 
therefore not concern himself with descriptions or 
reiteration of reality, but — whether in metaphors, 
fables or short stories — presents parables and 
reflected views. Bonaventura likewise omits 
completely the "illusion of reality" which for 
Hogarth and Fielding was a ruling principle. 42 
Instead, the tense text contains emblematic abstracts 
of the ingredients which Fielding recommends in his 
Preface to Joseph Andrews for the "comic epic poem in 
prose": extended and comprehensive action, a large 

41 Wilbur L. Cross, The History of Henrv 
Fielding, Vol. Ill (1918; New York: Russell & 
Russell, 1963), p. 194. 

42 Moore, p. 149. 


circle of incidents, and a great variety of 

characters. Only essential and timeless features 

stand out against the dark backdrop of the sixteen 

nights, and against the Solomonic judgement, which 

Kant confirmed, that all earthly endeavour will 

amount in the end to very little or nothing. As for 

the meaning and meanings of "nothing," Fielding 

approaches Shakespeare in imaginative exploration. 

His "Essay on Nothing," playfully brings together 

serious and lighthearted thoughts, starting with 

considerations of "The Antiquity of the Word," and 

the assertion: 

There is nothing falser than the old proverb 
which (like many other falsehoods) is in every 
mouth: "Ex nihilo nihil fit." Thus translated 
by Shakespeare, in Lear: "Nothing can come of 
nothing." Whereas in fact from nothing proceeds 
every thing. 

The tone of the essay is mock serious; by 
deliberately misinterpreting some expressions 
Fielding forces the reader to realise that the word 
is open to widely differing explications and glosses 
over a multitude of ambiguities and paradoxes. He 
pronounces as falsehood the general assumption "That 
no one can have an idea of nothing." For his part 
Fielding believes men grossly deceive themselves who 
"confidently deny us the idea" of nothing or would 
substitute "something" for it. "Many very wise men . 
having spent their whole lives in the 


contemplation and pursuit of nothing, have at last 
gravely concluded — That there is nothing in this 
world ." 43 

Far from expressing nihilism or existentialist 
despair, Fielding elaborates in Section III "On the 
Dignity of Nothing; and an endeavour to prove that it 
is the end as well as Beginning of all Things." He 
proceeds with irony and tongue in cheek, and 
demonstrates, for instance, that the dignity of 
infamous noblemen consists in "Nothing." In 
Fielding's serio-comic treatise solemn aspects are 
also considered, especially the Christian view "that 
the world is to have an end, i.e. to come to 
nothing." Self-mockery, a hall-mark of Fielding's 
satire, is operative in the final conclusion that 
"true virtue, wisdom, learning, wit, and integrity 
will most certainly bring their possessors — 
nothing. " 44 

The intellectual nightwatchman personifies this 
truth, though the reader has to follow him almost to 
the end of his self-revelation before he can fully 

43 The Com plete Works of Henrv Fielding . Vol. 
XIV, Miscell aneous Writings (Vol. I). Ed. W. E. 
Henley (rpt. New York: Barns and Noble, 1967), "An 
Essay on Nothing", pp. 309-319, pp. 310, 311, 

and 312. 

44 Fielding, Miscellaneous Writings (Vo. I) . 
pp. 315 ff . , 317, and 319. 


appreciate the dismal failures of Kreuzgang's 

blighted hopes to achieve "something." The 

"nothing," which appears throughout the text of the 

Niqhtwatches in Fieldingesque variations, is thus a 

satiric counterpoint to worldly aspirations and human 

creativity, which are symbolized by Kreuzgang's 

varied career. 

Lichtenberg thought much about the ultimate 

meaning of the concept "nothing." Using, like 

Fielding, a syllogism, he noted early in 1773 in 

English, and therefore obviously as a quote: 

A leg of mutton is better than nothing 
Nothing is better than heaven 

Therefore a leg of mutton is better than heaven 

(C 179) . 

With his usual analytical penetration he attributes 

the wrong conclusion to the ambiguity of "nothing," 

and declares the word in the first line a sub-species 

of that in the second. Efforts to define the word 

recur throughout his writings. They are always 

connected with the problems of existence, of which 

present personal life is seen as only a fleeting 

fragment. For instance, during one of his frequent 

death wishes, Lichtenberg hoped: 

If only the dividing line were already passed. 
My God, how I long for the moment when time will 
cease to be time for me and I will return into 
the womb of the maternal all and nothing, where 
I slept while the Hainberg was formed, while 
Epicure, Caesar, Lucretius lived and wrote, and 


Spinoza conceived the greatest thought ever to 
spring from a human brain (J 293) . 

In L 195, where he attempts to distill the 
principle of decent living from parallels in 
philosophical, religious, humanistic and political 
precepts, Lichtenberg also deals with the realization 
"that everything is nothing . " an insight which in his 
view can only be understood properly when it has 
resulted from the most intense mental effort. Among 
those who meet this criterion is Kreuzgang, from 
whose mind thoughts on the finality and vanity of 
human life are never far removed. 

In a passage where "madhouse" is egually 

emblematic for the individual, the nation, the earth 

or the universe, and the storm corresponds to any 

physical or mental disturbance, Kreuzgang looks out 

into a bleak cosmic void: 

The storm raged wildly about the madhouse.- I 
lay against the bars and looked into the night, 
beyond which there was nothing further to be 
seen in heaven and on earth. It was for me as 
if I were standing close to the Nothing and 
cried into it, but there was no more sound — I 
was frightened, for I believed I had really 
called, but I heard myself only in me. 

(p. 213). 45 

Pierre-Simon de Laplace, with whose works 
Lichtenberg as professor of astronomy was familiar 
(No. 683) had already anticipated the conception of 
the black hole, but as he could not verify it by 
experiments, his thoughts were considered up to very 
recently as suspect speculations and the relevant 
passages were omitted from later editions. 
Kreuzgang seems here to confront a similar 


An arrowswift flash of lightning illuminates the 
somber scene briefly, like the span of life set 
against eternity, and after that Kreuzgang sees 
himself alone "in the Nothing" (p. 213). Though 
terrified, he is not overpowered by the reign of 
darkness, and the integrity of individual life is 
thus asserted even in the bleakest moments. 

A dream seguence which follows provides negative 
proof of Locke's theory about the external "great 
source of most of the ideas we have." These, 
according to Locke, depend wholly upon our senses. 46 
Deprived of vision, Kreuzgang finds himself in the 
total dark completely dependent on his own inner 
resources, and has to acknowledge them as guite 
inadeguate in accordance with Locke's conclusion: 

phenomenon. See also Ecc. XII, 3, "In the days when 
the keepers of the house shall tremble, and the 
strong men shall bow themselves, and those that look 
out of the windows be darkened." 

46 John Locke. An Essay Concerning Human 
Understanding. (1690), Book II, Chapt. I, "Of Ideas 
in General, and their Original," Sec. 3: "The Objects 
of Sensation." This was not in Lichtenberg's library, 
but he shows his familiarity with Locke's theories in 
Book E and F, especially in connection with his work 
with David Hartley's philosophy, whom Priestley 
praised as having surpassed Locke (E 453) . F 11 
reviews a discussion in the Gottinigische Gelehrte 
Zeitung (1776) in which Priestley is accused of 
having misunderstood Locke. Lichtenberg deals with 
the formation of concepts, and how far the soul can 
reflect itself without external input. This is the 
very guestion which Kreuzgang tries to fathom as he 
stares out of the window. 


if there be nothing but the strength of our 
persuasions, whereby to judge of our 
persuasions: if reason must not examine their 
truth by something extrinsical to the 
persuasions themselves, inspirations and 
delusions, truth and falsehood, will have the 
same measure, and will not be possible to be 
distinguished. 47 

All Kreuzgang can do is to accept the maxim 
which Locke has underlined in the same paragraph: 
" Reason must be our last judge and guide in 
everything . " Throughout his nightwatches , 
Kreuzgang 's actions and reactions confirm this 
guideline, which was already established by Socrates. 
How far this human reason will stretch and whether it 
can be trusted are Kreuzgang' s guest ions. He 
pursues them with a fervent persistence that 
transposes Fieldings' realistic problems — how people 
should coexist most harmoniously and rewardingly — to 
an intense level of intellectual inquiry. 

Locke's "Essay Concerning Human Understanding" 

not only stimulated the English empiricists of the 

eighteenth century and provided the basis for the 

theories of Hartley and a challenge for Kant, it also 

influenced the literature of the period, including 

Fielding. A Lockean reference in one of his 

authorial asides illuminates a stage metaphor: 

Thus the hero is always introduced with a 
flourish of drums and trumpets, in order to 

47 Locke, IV, xix, Sec. 14. 


rouse a martial spirit in the audience and to 
accommodate their ears to bombast and fustian, 
which Mr. Locke's blind man would not have 
grossly ered in likening to the sound of a 
trumpet. 48 

As the nearest approach to a mind unfurnished 
with external objects, a person born blind could 
serve to verify Locke's theories, and throughout the 
enlightenment keen interest was therefore focused on 
the reactions and behaviour of such unfortunates. 49 
Bonaventura ' s many allusions to blindness should be 
interpreted as commentaries upon empirical philosophy 
from Locke to Kant. Bonaventura freguently alludes 
to Oedipus . which was guite common during the 
enlightenment, and occurs also in Fielding, where, 
for instance, "part of the Man of the Hill's tale is 
Oedipus Rex in reverse." 50 

Counter-balancing the tragedy of blindness and 
suffering in Lichtenberg and Bonaventura is 
Harleguin, the clown from the commedia dell' arte who 
plays a prominent part in Fielding's farces. These 

*° Tom Jones . IV. i. 

49 e.g. George Berkely, Essay towards a New 
Theory of Vision (1709), esp. Sec. 41, and A Treatise 
Concerning the Principles of Human Knowledge (1710), 
Sec. 43, 11 . . . a man born blind and afterwards made 
to see, would not, at first sight think the things he 
saw to be without his mind, or at any distance from him." 

50 Andrew Wright, Henrv Fielding Mask and Feast 
(Berkeley: University of California Press, 1965), p. 
88. r 


were too closely connected to topics of the moment to 
arouse much interest abroad. Lichtenberg knew them, 
however, and quoted them, as in his brief, allusive 
note "The tragic Harlequin" [ Per traqische Hanswurst ] 
(F 1177) . The connection to Fielding and his Pasquin 
is drawn by F 1165 which links the formulation 
"Zimmermann der Grosse" expressively with Tom Thumb 
the Great . and thus shows that Lichtenberg had 
Fielding's satiric metaphors in mind at the time. 

The line in Pasquin to which "der tragische 
Hanswurst" refers is in the Prologue which promises 
that Harlequin will "storm in tragic rage." This 
unusual blend of farce and tragedy in a prologue is 
repeated in the "Clown's Prologue to the 
Tragedy : Man, " which forms the actual and structural 
center of the Nightwatches (p. 137) . Fielding's use 
of the term Harlequin provides a link with the world 
of the commedia dell 'arte . This is emphazised in a 
contemporary cartoon, now in the British museum, 
where the cast of Pasquin appears in the traditional 
costumes of this genre. In the Ticket for the 
Author's Benefit similar figures are shown, a further 
sign that Fielding's farce was interpreted as part of 
the commedia dell 'arte tradition. 51 

51 Complete Works of Henry Fielding . Vol. XI, 
The Pasquin Cartoon, p. 164, Ticket to the Author's 
Benefit , p. 192; p. 203. 


Fielding's favorite structure for his farces was 
the "Rehearsal Play," in which audience participation 
is maximised, and the viewers are never allowed to 
forget that what happens is only a stage production. 
This Verfremdungsef fekt 52 deprives the action of 
immediacy and turns it from an appeal to the senses 
into one to the intellect. In his introduction to 
The Author's Farce . Charles B. Wood shows that this 
"'emblematical' method (to borrow a term from the 
critic Sneerwell in Pasguin) is likely to give 
characters and plot an allegorical significance and 
often does not pretend to represent surface 
appearances of life as we know it. At times, 
however, what may be called non-realistic elements 
are juxtaposed or mingled with realistic elements in 
such a way that a peculiar satiric effect is 
gained. " 53 

Kreuzgang uses similar Verfremdungsef fekte when 
he draws the reader's attention to his own efforts 

Brecht's expression is here used in agreement 
with Patricia Meyer Spacks, "Some Reflections on 
Satire," in ed. Ronald Paulson, Satire: Modern Essay s 
in Criticism (Englewood Cliffs, N. J. : Prentice Hall, 
1971), p. 362. "The best account of satiric intent 
has been supplied by a theorist who did not propose 
to describe satiric effects at all. Bertold Brecht's 
account of the purpose of his "epic theatre" is 
suggestive about the purposes of the satire." 

53 Henry Fielding, The Author's Farce . Ed. 
Charles B. Woods. Regents Restoration Drama 
(University of Nebraska Press, 1966), p. xvi. 


and skills in being able to write in different styles 
(p. 85) . Fielding's authorial voice also delights in 
these literary accomplishments. In Hatfield's 
j udgment 

the intrusive commentary, the digressions, the 
chats with hypothetical readers, the self- 
conscious theoretical flourishes, and other 
mannerisms are not just comic tricks at the 
expense of the narrative tradition. They are 
the "Art and Pains" reguired to set the author's 
mind "at a Distance and make it its own Object." 
They are a "Mirror for the Understanding" in 
which the thinking mind that assumes 
responsibility for the artifice and the rhetoric 
as well as for the ethical norms of the 
narrative is itself made an objective image, a 
sharper and more compelling image, often, than 
any of the characters of the fictional worlds 
for which he is the agency because he is closer 
to the reality which we ourselves inhabit. 54 

This description of Fielding's innovative 

authorial technigues applies in like measure to the 

nightwatchman. Similarly F. Homes Dudden describes 

Fielding's narrator in ways directly applicable to 

the Niqhtwatches . He assumes at will 

the role of interpreter, commentator, and 
critic. It was his habit to break off his 
narrative at freguent intervals, that he might 
come forward . . . and chat, as it were 
familiarly and confidentially with his readers. 
His communications were of various kinds. 
Sometimes he would explain details in the 
related history, . . . sometimes he would 
comment on the characters and their actions; 
sometimes he would expatiate on the theory of 
his art, or on some problem of life and 
conduct. 1,55 

Hatfield, p. 208. 
Dudden, p. 1104. 


Alter 's summary of Fielding's art and artifice 
also speaks equally for Bonaventura ' s literary 
methods : 

Fielding, like the best allusive poetry of 
Dryden and Pope, invokes — in a sense, 
recapitulates — a whole spectrum of European 
civilization from Homer and Horace to the French 
neoclassicists and the eighteenth-century 
English essayists. 56 

When Price discusses the considerable influence 
of Fielding on the German novel, he concludes that 
German critics failed to appreciate the fundamental 
difference between Richardson and Fielding, and that 
"ready enough to imitate other authors, the Germans 
have been unable to vie with Fielding." 57 Bonaventura 
may be regarded as an exception, for he understood 
and employed Fielding's literary techniques, though 
his menippea compresses the satiric critique of human 
follies into allegory, where Fielding relies largely 
on realistic and representational, and therefore much 
more expansive, exemplification. Fielding works in 
allegorical and moral dimensions, while Bonaventura 
proceeds to anagogy, the highest level of literature, 

56 Robert Alter, Fielding and the Nature of the 
Novel (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 
1968), p. 189. For Lichtenberg' s interest in Dryden 
see Bibliot heca Lichtenbergiana . No. 1642, an 
unidentifiable edition of John Dryden, Alexander's 
Feast . 

Price, English Literature in Germany , Chapter 
XIV, "Fielding and the Realistic Novel," p. 182. 


which requires mystical and spiritual interpretation, 

and thus in itself epitomizes the ultimate duality of 

all human endeavour. 

Paulson notes "a relentlessly humanizing 

tendency in irony from Swift onwards and a move 

towards character from the abstract idea." 58 This 

trend is strongly expressed in Fielding's approach to 

satire, but it is reversed by Bonaventura and his 

predilection for pure reason. At the same time 

Bonaventura advances from Fielding's techniques to 

those of Sterne, of whom Watt states 

Sterne, like Fielding, was a scholar and a wit, 
and he was equally anxious to have full freedom 
to comment on the action of his novel or indeed 
on anything else. But whereas Fielding had 
gained this freedom only by impairing the 
versimilitude of his narrative, Sterne was able 
to achieve exactly the same ends without any 
such sacrifice by the simple but ingenious 
expedient of locating his reflections in the 
mind of his hero — the most recondite allusion 
could thus be laid at the door of the notorious 
inconsequences of the process of the association 
of ideas. 59 

This was also the stance adopted by Bonaventura, in 
whose text Locke's and Hartley's association of 
ideas, to which Lichtenberg was so committed, is 
orchestrated with intellectual virtuosity. 

DO Ronald Paulson, Fielding; a Collection of 

Critical Essays (Englewood Cliffs, N. J. : Prentice 

Hall, 1971), Introduction, p. 6. 

59 Ian Watt, The Rise of the Novel. Studies in 

Defoe , Richardon and Fielding (Berkeley: University 

of California Press, 1962), p. 293. 



When Lichtenberg placed Fielding higher than 
Sterne in his comparison (F 1074) he had their 
respective didactic purposes in mind, and he took 
into consideration that Fielding's forgiveness of 
human failings is always based on the merit of the 
individual case, while Sterne's good natured humor 
often evades real evil; his delight in the ludicrous 
at times takes precedent over moral evaluation. 

Lichtenberg, who followed the traces of his 
literary heroes while in England, visited the grave 
of Sterne. 1 There he found neither the tombstone nor 
the epitaph — both supplied by two freemasons from 
their private means — adeguate to honor the great 
author. Admiration for his works had, however, not 
blinded him to the shortcomings of Sterne the man. 
Of these he must have heard from many who experienced 

1 Promies, Vol. IV, p. 232. The visit is 
mentioned in a letter to Dieterich dated March 15, 
1775, as having taken place on the previous day, and 
also in a letter to Professor Christian Gottlob 
Heyne, which was started on March 6th, but written in 
stages over a period of time. 



them at first hand, for he frequented the same 
circles in which the Prebendary from York had been 
made welcome not all that many years previously. 

In G 2 Lichtenberg warns his German compatriots 
who were moved to tears by Sterne's exquisite 
sentiments that Yorick, the authorial voice of the 
Sentimental Journey , was not the same as Sterne, whom 
he calls a 

creeping parasite, a flatterer of the great, and 
an insufferable leech to those with whom he 
decided to dine. He arrived without being 
invited for breakfast, and when his host went 
out on a visit to get rid of him, he came along 
unbidden, for he refused to imagine that he 
could be unwelcome anywhere. On returning home 
he came along again, and finally sat down to 
dinner, monopolizing the conversation and 
talking all the time about himself". 

Thus G 2 insists on the importance "for the 
understanding of Augustan [English eighteenth- 
century] prose satire . . . that a distinction be 
maintained between the author and his ironic 
persona." 2 This prerequisite is taken into account 
in all of Lichtenberg 's own satires and applies also 
to Kreuzgang, who should not be regarded as a 
straight projection of his author. 

Lichtenberg hints in G 2 at many unworthy 
intrigues which Sterne conducted, but to tell of 

Melvyn New, Laurence Sterne as Satirist. A 
Reading of Trist ram Shandy (Gainesville:University of 
Florida Press, 1969), p. 60. 


them, he says, would earn him accusations of planting 
nettles on the grave of him, who so lovingly removed 
them from the grave of Lorenzo. Lichtenberg warns, 
however, that Sterne would not have paused to take 
the time for this pious service to the dead, had a 
dinner invitation from a Duke awaited his attention, 
or had pulling nettles from a grave not sounded so 
particularly spiritual. In the same passage 
Lichtenberg calls Sterne an unsurpassably pleasing 
prattler and painter of feelings. The casual 
reference to Lorenzo's grave shows how well known 
Yoricks exploits had become in Germany. 3 

When Tristram Shandy took London by storm in 
1760 there was little reaction in Germany, where the 
situations and allusions were too alien to stir up 
much interest. The many digressions were little 
understood and further alienated readers. Sterne's 
extraordinary popularity in Germany began only when 
his Sentimental Journey appeared in 1768. It was 
instantly and ably translated by J. J. Bode, who was 
helped and inspired by Ebert, and also by Lessing, 
who suggested "empf indsam" as an apt rendering of 

Laurence Sterne. A Sentimental Journey . Vol. 
I. "The Snuff-Box. Calais." Price, English Literature 
in Germany, gives some instances of the impact this 
incident had in Germany, where even "Lorenzo Dosen," 
little horn boxes, were manufactured. 


"sentimental. 1,4 This translation appeared already in 
1768, followed by a second edition and another 
translation in the next year. Fortified by the 
success and by Lessing, Bode later translated Tom 
Jones in six volumes (1786-88) , retaining most of the 
original, while in most translations a great deal, 
especially of the authorial voice, was cut out. 5 

The enthusiastic reception of the Sentimental 
J ourney encouraged Bode to translate Tristram Shandy 
as well, and the list of his subscribers contained 
the leading literary names in Germany, including 
Goethe, Herder, Klopstock and Wieland. 6 

No copy of Tristram Shandy was in Lichtenberg's 
library, but his references to names and situations 
from the work in his notes and letters testifies to 
his thorough familiarity with the Shandean world. 7 
He owned the Sentimental Journey in a London edition 
of 1768, The Sermons of Mr. Yorick r London 1768, 4 
vols., and Letters to his most intimate friends. A 
Fragment in the Manner of Rablais. To which are ariripri 
prefix 'd Memoirs of his Life and Family written by 

4 Price, English Literature in Germany , chapt. 
XV, "Sterne and the Sentimental Novel," p. 193. 

5 Cross, The Hist ory of Henrv Fielding , p. 190. 

6 Price, English Literature in Germany ,, p. 194. 

7 E.g. Promies, Vol. IV, p. 340. Letter to Karl 
Friedrich Hindenburg of August 24, 1778. 


himself and published by his daughter, Mrs. Medal le . 
London 1775, 3 vols. (Nos. 1670-72) . An entry at the 
beginning of Wastebook B testifies that Lichtenberg 
had also read Yoricks Sentimental Journey in the 
translation of Bode, and corrected by Lessing. 8 

Sterne's whimsical humour and goodnatured 
tolerance of human failings became immensely 
fashionable. Empf indsamkeit , his supposed brand of 
sentimentality, turned into a password for a literary 
epoch and, as Price puts it, "the 'Emf indsamen' 
worshipped at Sterne's feet." 9 It was against this 
indiscriminate adoration that Lichtenberg directed 
his complaint: "Sternean simplicity of manners, his 
warm and feeling heart, his soul in sympathy with 
everything noble and good, all the other cliches, and 
the sigh alas poor Yorick l which says everything and 
nothing, have now become catchwords with us" (G 2) . 

What he himself admired was Sterne the satirist, 
whose knowledge of the human mind enabled him to 
reveal character traits through the most trivial 
incidents, and whose ability to connect quite 
different matters was in line with Locke's theory of 

Leitzmann, Vol. 123, p. 196. 

Price, English Literature in Germany , p. 195. 


The concepts which Locke had formulated had been 
elaborated by David Hartley (1705-57) . While 
Shaftesbury and his school considered human morality 
as an innate quality, Hartley, in his Observations on 
Man, his Fame, his Duty, and his Expectations (1749) , 
regards it as a trait that develops from association 
of ideas. Not inborn goodness, but the ability to 
combine thoughts and to look at events from differing 
perspectives is therefore seen as the quality which 
distinguishes man from the rest of creation, and at 
the same time gives him the only opportunity which 
exists on earth to transcend immediate reality. 
Hartley's ideas were supported by his experience as 
physician, and complemented with his theory of 

Joseph Priestley (1733-1804) was so impressed by 

these arguments that he reissued Hartley's work with 

an introduction by himself, in which he stressed the 

indebtedness to Locke and pointed out that "what we 

call new thoughts are only new combinations of old 

simple ideas or decompositions of complex ones." He 

insisted that 

simplicity in causes, and variety in effects, 
which we discover in every other part of nature: 
all our intellectual pleasures and pains, all 
the phenomena of memory, imagination, volition, 
reasoning, and every other mental affectation 


and operation, are only different modes, or 
cases of the association of ideas." 10 

Some have claimed that Sterne's mode of writing 

satirizes, yet also illustrates this point of view to 


Lichtenberg 's initial interest in Hartley was 
stimulated by his friendship with Priestley, 11 but he 
was soon contemplating, discussing and disseminating 
Hartley's ideas on his own, as he found them so 
congenial. He had already praised "Yorick" in KA 272 
for his gift of connecting distant things, and 
Sterne's brilliance in allusions and associations was 
a talent which in Lichtenberg' s estimation amounted 
to genius. When therefore some of Sterne's 
posthumous notes were criticized as trivial, 
Lichtenberg defended their value by pointing out that 
their meaning depended on the context, and he 
compared Sterne's collection of trifles to a 
painter's careful preparation of his colours (L 186). 
The analogy emphasizes Lichtenberg 's conviction that 
Sterne's seemingly intuitive and spontaneous whimsies 

10 Hartley's Theory of the Human Mind , 
pp. xxvi and xxiv. 

11 Promies, Vol. IV, pp. 236 and 253, where 
Priestley's introduction to Hartley's Theory of the 
human mind is discussed. Priestley expects that the 
individual will cease to exist after death. See also 
E 453 for Priestley and Hartley. 


were meticulously prepared and carefully planned. 
That this procedure applied equally to Lichtenberg 's 
own working methods, was already recognized in 1886 
by Richard M. Meyer, who sees in Lichtenberg the most 
eager apostle of the English way of thinking in 
Gottingen, and insists that his conception of 
Sterne's true merits was clearer than that of most of 
his contemporaries. 12 The reason for this Meyer sees 
in Lichtenberg' s method of arriving at conclusions 
not in a direct way, but circumspectly and by 
induction, based on acute observation of facts, 
especially of the sort which most other people regard 
as insignificant. 

Study of human trivia as key to the real 
motivation and mechanism of the human mind was an 
approach to character interpretation which 
Lichtenberg shared with Sterne, or to phrase it in 
more modern terms, both writers regarded the 
unconscious or subconscious as the best indication of 
truth. Like Sterne, Lichtenberg liked to look behind 
the scenes, for he knew how easily appearances could 
be arranged for effect, while the trivialities which 
normally pass unnoticed reveal the true nature behind 
the mask of affectation. Lichtenberg despaired about 
Yorick's enthusiastic admirers because of their 

12 Richard M. Meyer, pp. 75, 60, and 71. 


indiscriminating imitations and their failure to 
grasp Sterne's complexity. He censured their zeal — 
which all too often degenerated into mere 
absurdities — with metaphors similar to those which 
characterize the unsuccessful poet in the 
Nightwatches . who hides his own insignificance under 
the cast-off outer garments of the great and 
demonstrates thereby that he aspires to their 
eminence in appearance only, while ignoring 
completely the challenge of their genius (pp. 179 and 
181) . 

As Lichtenberg was constantly warning against 
writing from second hand experience, he admired 
Sterne's intimate knowledge of human motivations, as 
well as the intellectual dexterity with which he 
could manipulate reader reactions (F 1107) , and the 
apparent ease with which he presented his ideas. 
What others regarded as inspired whims, Lichtenberg 
appreciated as the result of a painstaking process of 
perfecting an idea, for he believed that Sterne must 
have polished his witty remarks for weeks, before 
they acguired the impromptu impact of a sudden flash 
of lightning (F 750) . 

Note F 750 is especially illuminating in this 
regard as Lichtenberg himself was a master of such 
seemingly spontaneous wit, and he himself perfected 


his proficiency by diligent study of other experts in 
the field. How he analyzed their example and 
profited by it is shown in C 47 where Sterne's 
apostrophes are appraised as a deliberate technique 
which adds zest to an argument. A suggestion is 
added how Lichtenberg might himself use that approach 
to advantage. 

Lichtenberg 's first satiric fragment, "Lorenz 
Eschenheimers empfindsame Reise nach Laputa" already 
shows a blending of Swift's manner with Sternean 
traits. While his contemporaries in Germany were 
inspired by Sterne's oddness, his delight in the 
ridiculous, his goodnatured compliance with human 
weakness and above all his erratic rambles, which 
were all taken as a celebration of individuality and 
an assertion of artistic freedom, Lichtenberg admired 
Sterne's art for the purpose and structure which it 
concealed, for its serious implications, and for the 
virtuosity with which trivialities or sexual innuendo 
were manipulated to serve the satiric intention. 

Bonaventura has taken from Sterne much of what 
Lichtenberg did. The method en Ziczac . already 
praised in B 131, was chosen by Bonaventura as the 
structural principle of his text; and as Jeffrey L. 
Sammons has shown, the seeming incoherence of the 
Nightwatches conceals the highly disciplined and 


sophisticated planning which is also apparent behind 
Sterne's digressive excursions. While Sterne and 
Bonaventura both digress with great calculation, the 
Nightwatches practice economy of means where Sterne 
allows himself to become expansive. 

Affinities between Tristram Shandy and the 
Nightwatches have already been examined by Rosemarie 
Hunter, who notes that "both novels have been 
described as fictional biographies," and "both have 
anti-heroes rather than heroes." Kreuzgang "tells 
his life and opinions, with a heavy stress on the 
opinions. There are digressions, insertions, 
flashbacks. A wide panorama of man's foibles, 
hypocrisy, and narrow-mindedness is painted with a 
wealth of detail-interwoven with fragments of the 
biographical story." 13 

Like Tristram Shandy, Kreuzgang is not revealing 
his history within a linear time frame or in 
consecutive narration. His narration is also 
governed by Sterne's blissful disregard of 
chronological order, for he, too, is not interested 
in events, but in human reactions to them, though 
these are predominantly emotional in Sterne and 
intellectual for Kreuzgang. 

Hunter, "Nachtwachen von Bonaventura," p. 220. 


Both authors follow the serio-comic requirements 
of the menippea and draw deliberate attention to 
their genre by, among other devices, repeated mention 
of tragi-comedies. Sterne accomplishes this in his 
Sentimental Journey by the seemingly gratuitous 
information that his hero attended the opera comique 
in Paris. Importance is given to this signifier by 
reiteration, 14 a method which is repeatedly used in 
the Niqhtwatches . 

Insistence on genre and careful adherence to its 
demands is a mark of the eighteenth-century writer. 
Satire as a genre has to be inconclusive, -for its aim 
is to withhold the answers in order to stimulate the 
reader into working out solutions for himself. This 
is not always recognized; loose ends — especially in 
the menippea which can so closely resemble the novel 
— are therefore often considered a weakness. Hence 
Frye remarks: "An extraordinary number of great 
satires are fragmentary, unfinished, or anonymous. 11 15 

Bonaventura parallels Sterne in other ways. His 
use of the Clown to speak the prologue of a tragedy 
recalls Sterne's inclusion of a sermon in Tristram 
Shandy, and more daring still, the publication of his 

14 Laurence Sterne. A Sentimental Journey . Book 
II," The Passport. The Hotel at Paris," and "The Act 
of Charity. Paris." 

15 Frye, p. 234. 


sermons under the pseudonym Yorick. Though the name 
also stands for York, the city with which Sterne 
identified himself, he himself suggests the 
connection with the jester in Hamlet in Chapter XI of 
Book I. 

Predictably Sterne was strongly attacked for 
allocating the authorial voice of his sermons to a 
court jester. The Monthly Review proclaimed it as 
"the greatest outrage against Sense and Decency, that 
has been offered since the first establishment of 
Christianity." It asked indignantly: "Would any man 
believe that a Preacher was in earnest, who should 
mount the pulpit in a Harlequins coat ?" 16 The 
public became, however, reconciled to Sterne's 
innovative authorial voice, and Bonaventura adapted 
it to his own purposes when he used the Clown as 
herald for a tragedy. 

Echoes from Yorick 's Sermons are faintly 
discernible in the Nightwatches . One of them fills in 
the background to Kreuzgang's "funeral oration . . . 
when a little boy was born," (p. 113) for it deals 
with Eccl., VII, 2-3: "It is better to go to the 
house of mourning than to the house of feasting." 17 

16 Laurence Sterne, The Sermons of Mr. Yorick . 
Intr. Wilbur L. Cross (New York: J. F. Taylor & Co., 
1904), I, pp. xxix-xxx. 

17 Sterne, Sermons . Vol. I, Sermon II, pp. 19-33. 


Wilbur L. Cross says about this sermon: "a beautiful 
allegorical veil hangs over the drama, under which we 
pass through scenes alternating with joy and sorrow, 
depicted with perfect art. This dramatic discourse 
is Sterne's most complete allegory of human life." 18 
Another of Sterne's sermons takes as its text 
Genesis I, 15 and is called "Joseph's History 
Considered — Forgiveness of Injuries." 19 Sterne 
dwells on Joseph's nature as being fundamentally 
different from that of his brothers, for he was kind, 
loving, and concerned for all of them, while they 
were selfish, mean and narrow-minded. Sterne's vivid 
interpretation of the biblical text illuminates the 
metaphoric use of Joseph in the Tenth Nightwatch (p. 
161) . 

The Sermons deal, however, on the whole with 
themes and gueries common to their times; their 
subject matter provides, therefore, only a general 
indication of Bonaventura ' s focus. A more revealing 
similarity between Sterne and Bonaventura is found in 
their references to Hamlet . Sterne uses 
Shakespeare's tragedy as a backdrop against which he 
projects and tests his heroes. For this effect he 

18 Wilbur L. Cross, The Life and Times of 

Laurence Sterne . New enlarged ed. (New Haven: Yale 

University Press, 1925), Vol. I, p. 228. 

19 Sermons. Vol. I, Sermon XII, pp. 193-210. 


does not just rely on Yorick, but introduces constant 

allusions and references, so that, as in the 

Niqhtwatches . the reader is repeatedly reminded to 

maintain a double focus, and to interpret the text 

with Shakespeare's tragedy in mind. 

A further reference to Sterne in the 

Niqhtwatches is the description of the dehumanised 

judge writing death warrants, "buried in piles of 

documents, like a Laplander interred alive" (p. 51) . 

Bonaventura does not pause to refer his readers to 

"The Author's Preface" in Tristram Shandy , where 

Tristram talks of North Lapland, 

where the whole province of a man's concernments 
lies for near nine month together within the 
narrow compass of his cave, — where the spirits 
are compressed almost to nothing, — and where the 
passions of a man, with everything which belongs 
to them, are as frigid as the zone itself; — 
there the least quantity of judgment imaginable 
does the business, — and of wit — there is a 
total and an absolute saving, — for as not one 
spark is wanted, — so not one spark is given. 

Bonaventura compresses the whole passage, into 
the short simile of "a Laplander interred alive" (p. 
51) . Baffling until the connotation is understood, 
the description surprises by its precision, and 
displays at the same time Bonaventura ' s short-hand 
method of allusion, his erudition and his amazing 
recall of literary detail. 

The Preface to Tristram Shandy is particularly 
celebrated because it is placed into Chapter XX of 


Book III. By this unusual device Sterne not only 

ridicules the custom of writing empty prefaces, but 

also indicates his intention to have his own preface 

read and generally discussed. In this belated 

introduction he explains his own contribution to the 

theory of association with the characteristic 

nonchalance with which he habitually presents 

important problems in frivolous guise. Reviewing the 

implications of wit and judgment, he calls upon a 

variety of witnesses that eguals — and burlesques — 

Burton's method of establishing himself as an 

unbiased reporter by attributing all his information 

to others. Mixing fact and invention with Swiftian 

ease, Sterne declares: 

wit and judgment in this world never go 
together; inasmuch as they are two operations 
differing from each other as wide as east is 
from west. — So says Locke; — so are farting and 
hiccuping, say I. But in answer to this, 
Didius, the great church lawyer, in his code de 
fartandi et illustrandi fallaciis . doth maintain 
and make fully appear, That an illustration is 
no argument, — nor do I maintain the wiping of a 
looking glass clean to be a syllogism. 

Lichtenberg poured over these pages. In Timorus 

Conrad Photorin quotes the last part of the passage, 

either from memory or with the subtle intention to 

adapt it more closely to the context of book-learning 

in which Conrad's pretensions flourish, for it 

appears as Brillenwischen ist noch kein Sylloaismus — 


to wipe spectacles clean does not amount to 
syllogism. 20 

Photorin quotes Latin and Greek authorities in 
the same sentence together with Sterne, whom he 
latinises into a Prabendarius Sterne and calls a 
Scandalum ecclesiae f while dismissing his opinions as 
fool's talk (Possen) . This criticism of an author 
whom he highly valued shows clearly that Photorin is 
a satiric mouthpiece with whom Lichtenberg did not 
expect to be identified. Instead Photorin 

the rhetorical trope of irony, which at one time 
referred almost solely to the 'blame-by- 
praise' figure, [and] had come to define for the 
Augustan satirists the fundamental organizing 
principle of their work — an ironic persona whose 
intensely serious engagement in the bathetic, 
the trivial, and the absurd was the starting 
point of an attack on human folly and 
perversity. 11 

Melvyn New argues that this "rhetoric of mock- 
encomium" pervades Tristram Shandy . 21 It is also a 
device by which Kreuzgang apportions blame, thereby 
forcing the reader constantly to assess whether the 
nightwatchman is using his sober judgement or the 
rhetoric of satiric inversion. 

While Conrad Photorin is cast in the mold of 
Martinus Scriblerus — the learned, narrow-minded, 

20 Promies, Vol. Ill, p. 226. 

21 New, p. 64. 


self-satisfied pedant — Yorick, Tristram Shandy, and 

Kreuzgang establish a separate pattern. In their 

different ways all three aspire to a generality which 

offers the reader possibilities for identification, 

and by this method the impact of their often 

unexpectedly acerbic irony is sharpened. Where they 

ridicule man's follies — as opposed to castigating 

particular misuses in certain fields such as law, 

medicine, or theology — they therefore direct the 

satire also against themselves. A good example of 

this is in Tristram Shandy . V. xv. , which begins: 

Had this volume been a farce, which, unless 
every one's life and opinions are to be looked 
upon as a farce as well as mine, I see no reason 
to suppose — the last chapter, Sir, must have set 
off thus. 

Ptr. .r. . r. . ing — twing — twang — prut — trut 'tis 

a cursed bad fiddle. 

Melvyn New's satiric reading of the text shows 
that "Tristram's play on the word 'farce' provides 
both an ironic selfappraisal of his efforts thus far 
and the signal which sets him fiddling. 1,22 In the 
midst of further onomatopetic incoherence, Sterne 
introduces, as if casually, the word "nothing," one 
of his recurring leitmotifs which appears in ever 
changing context. He declares "there is nothing in 
playing before good judges." He also weaves elliptic 
phrases into his description of playing on a violin 

22 New, p. 160. 


which is out of tune, "wickedly strung." These 
indicate that a "grave man in black" is silently 

The man in black, enigmatic as in Goldsmith's 
The Citizen of the World and in the Niahtwatches . 
gives a serious undertone to the menippea. The 
serio-comic polarity is further emphazised by the 
extreme contrasts with which Tristram enlivens his 

I had rather play a Cappriccio to Calliope 
herself than draw my bow across my fiddle before 
that very man; . . . I'll stake my Cremona to a 
Jew's trump, which is the greatest musical odds 
that ever were laid, that I will this moment 
stop three hundred and fifty leagues out of tune 
upon my fiddle, without punishing one single 
nerve that belongs to him. 

While the man in black himself remains a shadow 
figure, such hyperbole defines him as somebody quite 
out of this world — death or devil — and thus 
establishes the uneasy feeling that, while life may 
be a farce it will nevertheless inevitably end in 
tragedy and death. 

Anticipating the Niohtwatches . Sterne uses 
literary criticism and similes from music to explain 
general truths. Music played on an instrument that 
is out of tune thus is turned into a metaphor for the 
cacophony of life. The dichotomy between the ideal, 
which can be imagined but not realized, and the 
pitiful reality is already inherent in Shandy's 


fiddling. Bonaventura only elaborates and up-dates 
the image when he repeatedly presents the out-of-tune 
"Mozart symphony executed by bad village musicians" 
(p. 75) . Kreuzgang uses Sterne's imagery even more 
directly when he compares his heart to "a string 
instrument absurdly tuned on purpose, on which 
therefore nothing can ever be played in a pure key, 
unless it be that the devil might once advertise a 
concert on it." (p. 167) 

Tristram's self-ironizing remarks on farce while 
he fiddles and "the grave man in black" silently 
watches are among the signs which Melvyn New has 
noted of "death's growing dominance in Tristram's 
study throughout Volumes V and VI." Consequently, 
when in Volume VII, Chapter I, Death himself knocked 
at Tristram's door, it is but a "logical and dramatic 
consequence of Tristram's previous activity." 23 

The implied presence of death, and the ultimate 
questions about the value and aim of life which are 
thereby posed are the theme which unifies the 
digressive texts of Sterne, as well as the 
Nightwatches. Melvyn New connects Sterne with "the 
'dance of death' tradition in having Death lead 
Tristram (or, more accurately, pursue him) across the 
length of France to a final dance with Nannette in 

23 New, p. 173. 


the last chapter." Though New makes it clear that 
"the danse macabre is not essentially a satiric 
tradition," he shows that through "the close 
relationship between sermon and satire in the 
fifteenth and sixteenth centuries ... it passed 
freely from one to the other and became one of the 
satirist's methods to remind his reader of the 
ubiguity of death, the ultimate last journey to the 
grave. " 2 4 

Tristram flies from Death with precipitate 
haste, though he knows that there is no escape for 
him, and that the outcome must be the same as in the 
traditional Dance of Death where resignation reigns 
from the start. But to him the essence of life is, 
as for Kreuzgang, self-assertion, and resistance 
against Dulness, mediocrity and defeat, and so he 
flees even though there is no geographical point 
which can offer him a sanctuary. His journey can 
therefore never be completed. 

Less spectacular is the nightwatchman's retreat 
from death. He takes an inward turn, and withdraws 
from the world, becoming more and more alienated. 
The point of refuge from which he might hope to defy 
the invisible threat is his inner self, and he is 
therefore searching for his identity. Conforming with 

24 New, p. 173. 


enlightened aims he does this not as an individual 
but as a representative of mankind, for the 
correlation between life and eternity was to the age 
a general and not a personal challenge. 

The invisible presence of Death in the 
Niahtwatches is established from the first page, when 
the stillness in the dark streets is described as 
"dead silence" (p. 29) . Such colloguialisms are 
freguently employed in the manner of Sterne who 
introduces them as if they were merely casual 
embellishments. While on the surface they add lively 
immediacy to his language, they constantly keep the 
image of death visible in the background. "The wind 
chopped about: s' Death!-" (VII. ii.). "A clatter in 
the house shall wake the dead" (VII. xi.). "The devil 
it is! said I" (VII. xxxiv.). 

Such expressions jolt the memory, and with their 
ungentlemanly crudity they form an intermediary link 
between the escatological allegory of the travelogue 
in Book VII and the bawdy aspects, which are provided 
by Tristram's lively interest in wordly pleasures. 
This polarity pervades every incident, however 
trifling, and infuses the apparently capricious humor 
with dark and unexpected dimensions. 

Bonaventura uses the same pattern. Beside 
idiomatic phrases concerning death, those of related 


subjects like devil and grave are also freely 
introduced, even in such seemingly neutral asides as 
the aphorism "Sobriety is the tomb of art!" (p. 187). 
As in Sterne they keep the ultimate questions 
concerning death, dying and the possibilities 
afterwards in the mind, and provide a somber 
counterpoint to the farcical situations of life. 

The people whom Kreuzgang meets on his nightly 
rounds are like the figures in the Dance of Death, 
not individuals but prototypes of human experience. 
As Kreuzgang sees himself as representative of 
humanity, ( der ich Mensch heisse . p. 167) , the people 
he encounters are mostly projections of his own 
personality, and many of them are pursued or 
overtaken by death while he wakes and watches. The 
detached fascination with which he observes and 
analyses their end is only possible because he 
experiences each death not as an individual calamity, 
but as a central part of the "Tragedy: Man" in which 
he himself has been allocated a part. 

The poet in the garret is an embodiment of his 
own former aspiration — "I was once of your kind" (p. 
31) . The freethinker foreshadows his own death, and 
a sequel to life on earth which can be anticipated 
mystically, but not rationally (p. 31-37) . Self- 
identification even includes the mysterious "tall 


manly figure, wrapped in a cloak" (p. 67) that "man 
on the grave" (p. 69) whose suicide attempts prove 
futile, for Kreuzgang reports of himself a similar 
incident, although it happened in a dream: "Beyond 
myself, I tried to annihilate myself — but I remained 
and felt myself immortal! ..." (p. 215) . 

All these men lack a proper name. They are not 
characters but rather the types we expect in 
menippean satire as defined by Northrop Frye's theory 
of genres: 

The Menippean satire deals less with people as 
such than with mental attitudes. Pedants, 
bigots, cranks, parvenus, virtuosi, enthusiasts, 
rapacious and incompetent professional men of 
all kinds, are handled in terms of their 
occupational approach to life as distinct from 
their social behavior. The Menippean satire 
thus resembles the confession in its ability to 
handle abstract ideas and theories, and differs 
from the novel in its characterization, which is 
stylized rather than naturalistic, and presents 
people as mouthpieces of the ideas they 
represent. 25 

As in the Dance of Death, individuality is 
merged into the common fate, but the Niqhtwatches 
stress the contradictions in human nature through 
these odd and sometimes bizarre types of its 
characters. Sterne uses similar ploys to expose dark 
reality behind a confused and incoherent surface. 

Bonaventura's satire is more precise and 
therefore more bitter than Sterne's, and his 

Frye, p. 309. 


paradigms are more poignant and despairing. This is 

especially obvious in the female characters. There 

is no room in the semi-darkness of Kreuzgang's storm 

riven rounds for light-hearted banter and fleeting 

flirtations, or for the conventional pleasantries 

exchanged with chambermaids. Nor is there time to 

imply and gradually insinuate the idea of a Dance of 

Death. The theme is directly introduced in the Tenth 

Nightwatch, a chapter filled with confrontations with 

death, where skaters are described as "dancing the 

Basel dance of death to this funeral music" (p. 159) . 

Then — as if in confirmation of Locke and Kant and 

their claim that the human mind cannot conceive of 

anything of which it lacks experience — at the end of 

the final night, Kreuzgang speculates 

no doubt countless stars are sparkling and 
swimming there above us in heaven's ocean, but 
if they have worlds, as many clever heads 
assert, then there are also skulls on them and 
worms, as here below; and that holds throughout 
the whole immensity, and the Basel dance of 
death merely grows all the merrier and wilder 
thereby and the ballroom grander, (p. 245) 

The Death of Basel, the famous Tod von Basel , 

was one of the great sights of this important town 

and a potent attraction, especially to Englishmen on 

the Grand Tour, who visited it in great numbers. 26 

26 Paul-Henry Boerlin, Der Basler Prediger- 
Totentanz, in Unsere Kunstdenkmaler . Mitteilunasblatt 
der G esellschaft fur schweizerische Kunstaeschi ehte 
XVII, Nr. 4, Basel, 1966, pp. 128-140. 


Many of them also stopped and studied in Gottingen, 
and related their experiences there. Prints and 
copies of this large fresco enjoyed a brisk sale, and 
ensured it wide publicity. The huge memento mori was 
painted during the fifteenth century onto the 
churchyard wall of the Dominican Monastery, 
presumably just after the devastating outbreak of the 
Black Death in 1439. In Basel the twenty-four 
traditional pairs were expanded to thirty-nine, and 
each was accompanied by two stanzas. In the first, 
Death announces his victims' occupation and doom, in 
the last his human partners reply that they have no 
choice but to comply with his commands. There is no 
dramatic struggle, and neither fear nor terror, only 
hopeless resignation. 

The Dance is arranged in a procession like a 
polonaise, and the nightwatchman gives a good 
impression of it when he compares it with skaters, 
who "are turning with airy agility on the sheet of 
ice in the meadow" (p. 159) . The "sheet of ice" not 
only conveys the chill of the entertainment, but also 
introduces a further metonym for the fragile 
vulnerability of life. 

Not many women appear in the Basel frescoe, for 
in the emblematic representation they can only typify 
the young and the old, the rich and the poor, the 


vain and, in the person of a rather central abbess, 
those with a religious calling; while the numerous 
men impersonate the different professions. The 
paucity of women, and their generalized and 
indistinct personalities in the Niqhtwatches , 
conforms with this allegorical display of mankind. 27 
In the Niqhtwatches the abbess is not even 
mentioned. But as the authority responsible for the 
entombing of the beautiful young mother, her presence 
casts a deathly shadow over the convent scene. In 
Tristram Shandy the digression concerning the Abbess 
of Andouillets (VII, xxi-xxiv.) takes up five 
chapters of uneven length. One of them comprises 
only a few lines and these are liberally interspersed 
with dashes. 

The anecdote relates how the abbess and her 
resourceful novice contrived to pronounce forbidden 
words, the only ones which are supposed to induce two 
mules to draw their carriage uphill. They endeavour 
to preserve their integrity by the simple expedient 
of saying each of them only half of the wicked words, 
and thus a meaningless and consequently sinless 

27 The Tod von Basel was demolished at the 
beginning of the nineteenth century when it was found 
to be in urgent need of costly restoration. The wall 
was pulled down with great speed to forestall 
protests, and only a few fragments could be saved. 
Most of these have by now found their way into the 
Historisches Museum in Basel. 


syllable. That they have literally conformed to the 
letter, while sinning against the spirit is a 
transgression which does not worry them. The two 
nuns are quite oblivious to their sin against the 
Holy Spirit to which the anecdote draws attention. 

The tale has all the smuttiness of a crude joke, 
which Sterne turns into an elegant entertainment by 
the erudition of his allusions and insinuations. He 
also provides a context which elevates the rude prank 
into a parable not less critical of institutionalized 
religion than the much more spine-chilling scene 
which Kreuzgang watches in the convent (p. 165-69) . 
Both incidents are not concerned with individuals and 
their particular fate, but with mental attitudes. 
Indicted are not just women, or even religious 
orders, but the hypocrisy of human nature that 
conscientiously pursues the letter and offends 
against the spirit with impunity. 

The dashes and dots which Sterne uses so 
profusely to induce the reader to fill in his own 
conclusions are very sparingly applied by 
Bonaventura. Instead he uses the method of Timanthes 
and leaves a void to set the readers' imagination to 
work. Lest this be forgotten he reminds them every 
now and again of his technique. Thus he lets the 
procession of nuns "and in their midst the walking 


bride of death," pass by without horrified outcry, 
offering only the comment, "the tragic muse, the less 
hand-wringing she does, the more profoundly she moves 
us" (p. 167) . 

The gothic atmosphere of the tomb scene is 
almost as little accentuated in the Nightwatches as 
in Tristram Shandy , or in the Sentimental Journey . 
There, nothing is told of the scenery or the tomb of 
Father Lorenzo, but that "he was buried, not in his 
convent, but according to his desire, in a little 
cemetery, belonging to it, about two leagues off." 
How forgotten he lies all by himself is only implied 
by Yorick "plucking up a nettle or two" from his 
grave. As this act of charity causes him to "burst 
into a flood of tears," we must conclude that the 
desolation of the scene is overwhelming (The Snuff 
Box. Calais) . 

Sterne mentions the scenery only insofar as it 
is reflected in Yorick' s reaction. He does not stop 
to exploit the descriptive possibilities of the grave 
yard. Where he takes note of the environment it is 
only to illustrate human nature. Thus Father 
Lorenzo's wish to be buried so far from the monastery 
projects by topographical means his alienation from 
the religious order to which he belonged, while the 


neglect of his grave reflects in turn the monks' 

rejection of him. 

Where nature is noticed in the Nightwatches . it 

serves the same parabolic purpose, as in a comparison 

of the two dissimilar brothers, where scenes from 

nature are first used as descriptive epithets. Juan 

"stood all in flames like a volcano," (p. 89) while 

Ponce "was like a tree which, robbed of its 

transitory vernal embellishment, stretches its naked 

branches stiff and bewildered into the breezes" (p. 

91) . The situation is then summed up: 

Thus the same lightning flash ignites a forest 
for it to illuminate the horizon a thousand 
nights through, while it travels fleetingly over 
the heath and singes the meagre flowers for them 
to wither and leave no trace behind. 28 

Inherent in these Quotations is the theological 

and mythological background which can provide 

perspectives into eternity from every point, however 

randomly selected. Sterne and Bonaventura 

continually apply this device, often by mere hints 

The powerful image is not taken from nature 
directly, but from "Milton's description of the devil 
and his host of of fallen angels." Milton's passage 
is highly recommended by Richardson for its 
"profusion of ornament, particularly in similes, but 
in each of them there is a great oeconomy shewn [sic] 
in the language, not a word but is to the purpose." 
Richardson, Works . p. 133. A similar paraphrase from 
Paradis e Lost was noticed for Tristram Shandy (VI. 
xxxv.). "STILLNESS, with SILENCE at her back, entered 
the solitary parlour, and drew their gauzy mantle 
over my uncle Toby's head." Tristram Shandy . New, The 
Notes, p. 437, commentary on p. 561, nn. 19-22. 

and the lightest of touches which are difficult to 
detect. At other times they rely on well known 
mythological implications, such as the lameness, 
which allegorizes divine punishment for presumption 
and a fall from heaven, as experienced by Satan and 
Vulcan. Conversely, lameness is also the hard won 
mark of divine acceptance for Jacob, who acquired it 
wrestling with God — a methaphor for persistent 
pursuit of a worthy aim — and survived, proclaiming: 
"I have seen God face to face, and my life is 
preserved" (Gen., XXXII, 24-30). The episode 
epitomizes the promise of redemption after 
perseverance and suffering which Jakob Bohme treats 
in his exegesis of Genesis, Mysterium Magnum . 

Sterne assigns this impediment almost casually 
to a rustic musician who is playing for the village 
dance. That it may signify more than a deplorable 
physical defect can be inferred from the allusion to 
the gods, contained in his description as one "whom 
Apollo had recompensed with a pipe" (VII, iviii) . 
The allusion to Pan is reinforced by the alternating 
metonym "nymphs" for "the rustic daughters of labour" 
who draw Tristram into their dance. These hints 
change the rural amusement imperceptibly into a 
vision of life in Arcadia. 


Bonaventura employs an identical technique when 

Kreuzgang mentions lameness without further 

explanation, but in the context of classical 

allusions. The aside may be taken for nothing more 

than a figure of speech, but it prompts the 

perceptive reader to consider the possibility of 

allegorical implications. Reminiscing about the 

couple planning adultery, the nightwatchman relates: 

And it was not long until my Mars crept to his 
Venus. Since I limped by nature and didn't have 
the best appearance, I lacked as Vulcan really 
little more than the golden net. (p. 53) 

The physical handicap is not integrated into the 
story in any realistic way by either Sterne or 
Bonaventura. In Sterne's situation it connects the 
scene to Greek mythology, and through it to a vision 
of perfection which humanity can only imagine. In 
Kreuzweg's case the impediment is not only a reminder 
of his godfather, the devil, but also of his nights 
of wrestling, like Jacob, with the problems of death 
and eternity. 

The enigmatic biblical report of Jacob's 
encounter with God shows man in a position of near 
equality to God, and lameness as the mark of courage 
to have challenged him and forced from him a 
blessing. The different facets of lameness thus 
characterize Kreuzgang like the contradictory faces 


that stare at him out of the mirror of his 

imagination (p. Ill) . 

Such devices are intended to activate reader 

participation, but they also serve the purpose of 

turning common incidents into parables of general 

significance. Both were processes in which 

Lichtenberg delighted, for he strongly believed that 

"what you find out for yourself leaves a trail in the 

intellect which can be of further use in different 

contexts" C 196. To understand, assimilate and 

explain great thoughts by fitting them into the frame 

of personal experience is a corner stone of his 

Gedankensy stem . his method of acguiring, arranging, 

and utilising ideas. He outlined his ideal of 

empathy between author and reader as early as 1769: 

Where people are unable to hear you think, it is 
necessary to speak, but as soon as you arrive at 
a point where it is possible to take thoughts 
for granted which co-incide with our own, one 
has to stop speaking. Such a book is Sterne's 
Journey . but most books contain nothing between 
two memorable points but the most ordinary 
common sense, a long drawn line where a dotted 
line would have sufficed. B 86 

The nightwatchman likes to lead the reader along 
just such dotted lines as constitute Lichtenberg 's 
ideal. While he keeps his feelings shrouded to the 
point of sometimes obscuring them altogether, he does 
register much more forcibly than Sterne does his 


disappointment about the imperfections of life and 
the gap between imagination and reality. 

Between Sterne's goodnatured acceptance of human 
shortcomings, and the nightwatchman's dark despair 
about the perverse irrationalities of mankind lies 
the chasm of the French Revolution. This destroyed 
with its unexpected atrocities the enlightened belief 
in progressive perfection, and in the basic 
benevolence of the human disposition. What appeared 
as flaws which increased insight, patience and good 
will might overcome in time were now revealed as 
cracks under which an unfathomable abyss opened. 
When, therefore, both authors use similar means for 
similar ends, they handle them in different ways. 
Love ending in madness illustrates the point. 

In Tristram Shandy this affliction is 
personified by the forsaken shepherdess Maria in her 
lyrical rural setting (IX. xxiv.). Melvyn New points 
to this episode as "intended by Tristram to show his 
secret springs being touched." 29 Tristram 
demonstrates his capacity for empathy in this 
interlude in several ways, for on the road towards 
Maria, he had his "uncle Toby's amours running all 
the way" in his head, and they affected him as if 
they had been his own, "so that whether the roads 

29 New, p. 193. 


were rough or smooth, it made no difference; 

everything . . . [he] saw or had to do with, touched 

upon some secret spring either of sentiment or 

rapture" (IX. xxiv) . 

The encounter with the shepherdess belongs 

thematically to Tristram's journey in Book VII, and 

is part of his unsuccessful flight from death. But 

Sterne instead inserts it into Volume IX, close to 

the end. He prefaces the episode with an invocation 

to the "Gentle Spirit of sweetest humour, who erst 

didst sit upon the easy pen of my beloved CERVANTES," 

and proclaims himself unfitted to the task 

yet now that I am got to it, anyone is welcome 
to take my pen, and go on with the story for me 

that will 1 see difficulties of the 

descriptions I'm going to give and feel my 

want of powers. 

Kreuzgang protests with similar frustration his lack 

of skill to describe the full force of human passions 

and the havoc they create. Sterne's order is 

inversed, for Kreuzgang offers his remarks only when 

he has finished his tale of love and death: 

What wouldn't I give to be able to narrate with 
the same nice coherence and directness as other 
honest Protestant poets and magazine writers, 
who become great and splendid in so doing and 
exchange their golden ideas for golden 
realities. It simply has not been granted to 
me, and the brief, simple murder story has cost 
me sweat and toil enough and, none the less, 
still looks shaggy and motley enough, (p. 97) 


There is no reference to Cervantes, but it will 
be remembered that the location of Kreuzgang's tale 
is Spain. The elements of Bonaventura ' s love story 
are as basic, and therefore as melodramatic, as those 
of Sterne's famed tale of the girl sitting on a bank 
and playing woeful tunes on a flute, the haunting 
image of lost love, reason and hope. Cervantes had 
already introduced madness and derangement among 
love-struck shepherds into his Don Quixote to expose 
as illusory and escapist any hopes that an untainted 
paradise might be found in the wilderness of 
nature. 30 It is the men who suffer from lovesickness 
and ensuing madness in his narration. Maria, like 
Ophelia, shows the female aspects of a derangement 
which has its origins in the incompatability of ideal 
love with the realities of mundane existence. 

Though Maria takes up little space in Tristram 
Shandy, her significance as a focus of love and 
compassion is considerable. More than anyone else 
she succeeds in drawing Tristram closer to herself 
and thus further out of his own isolation. She 
reappears in the Sentimental Journey r where the 

Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra, The Adventures 

°f Don Quixote . First Part, Chapt. XII, "The 

Goatherd's Story, and Chapt. XIII, "The Conclusion of 
the Story." 


vignette is enlarged into three short chapters which 
bear her name as title (Vol. II) . 

The episode inpired much languid imitation in 
Germany, especially in Darmstadt, Lichtenberg's 
hometown, where a group of literary enthusiasts 
wallowed in Empf indsamkeit . They were active mainly 
between 1770 and 1775. Lichtenberg's contemporary, 
Johann Heinrich Merck (1741-1791) , belonged to this 
circle. Merck's friend Goethe visited Darmstadt, and 
found much support there for his early literary 

Central to the circle was Louise von Ziegler, a 
lady in waiting at the Darmstadt court, who "thought 
of herself as Maria of Moulines." Caroline von 
Flachsland also belonged to this group. She was 
betrothed to Herder and reported to him that Louisa 
had reconstructed Maria's grave in her garden, and 
that she was accompanied by a little lamb, which ate 
and drank with her. The prudent substitution for the 
emblematically and factually inconvenient goat of a 
docile and socially much more acceptable lamb is 
symptomatic of the attitudes exhibited by many of 
Sterne's most visible German disciples at the time. 31 

Price, English Literature in Germany , p. 
195 ! . See also Fritz Ebner, Musen wohl. doch auch 

Politik. Lebensbilder aus Darmstadts Veraanqenheit . 

(Darmstadt: Justus von Liebig Verlag, 1982), p. 13-19. 


Goethe's admiration for Louisa, whom he addressed in 
poetry as "Lila," goes far to explain Lichtenberg's 
acerbic and repeated criticism of the young poet's 
early works. 

The love interest in the Niahtwatches has 
nothing of "Lila's" diffuse sentimentality. Whether 
in the twice repeated story from Spain, in the 
invisble suffering of Nos. 12-16 in the asylum, or in 
Kreuzgang's own "Maytime in the madhouse" (pp. 157, 
199-217) — those who pursue the ideal of love come to 
serious and irreversible grief. The nightwatchman ' s 
own love, Ophelia, has Maria's function, and the 
attributes which both women share with Shakespeare's 
heroine: a passive non-comprehension of life's 
cruelties, and an unfulf illable need for wholeness; 
but Bonaventura ' s Ophelia is anything but a pattern 
for a sentimental cult. 

Mozart's symphony turns into a travesty when 
performed by the incompetent. Likewise all the love 
interests in the Niahtwatches are preordained to end 
in failure and dismay, because the participants 
themselves are human, and so fall short of the ideal. 
Like Tristram, Kreuzgang is included in this tragic- 
comic pattern. Bonaventura adds intensity and 
Swiftian intellectual despair to Sterne's penetrating 


perception, and does not let his dissappointed lovers 
linger on in pastoral dignity. 

The guestion why perfection is so elusive, and 
whether it could satisfy man's restless longing even 
if it were obtainable, exercised many enlightened 
minds. To Johnson's Rasselas the problem is central, 
for the Abyssinian prince grew up in an enclosure 
where "all the diversities of the world were brought 
together; the blessings of nature were collected, and 
its evils extracted and excluded" (Chapt. I) . Yet, 
needless to say, he wanted to escape, "because 
pleasure has ceased to please," (Chapt. III). 

Hogarth had considered the problem from the 
viewpoint of the painter. When he attempted to 
create a serene and joyful companion series to the 
calamitous but hugely successful Marriage a la Mode , 
not only was there no popular response, he himself 
lost interest and left the enterprise unfinished. 32 

Lichtenberg mentioned this dissappointment at 
the end of his commentaries to the Marriage a la 
Mode . Characteristically he offered a reason for the 
failure, and he presented it in the form of a 

The Hap py Marriage series survives only in a 
number of oil sketches, and engravings after lost 
paintings, which seem to be guite without a plot. 
David Bindmann, Hogarth (Norwich: Thames and Hudson, 
1981), pp. lis and 118. See also Paulson, Hogarth: 
His Life. Art, a nd Times . Vol. II, pp. n and 15. 


literary allusion, which is used so frequently in his 

writings, as in the Nightwatches : 

Probably his friends gave him to understand in 
good time that he was in the same position as 
his great fellow-countryman Milton; Milton 
lives, as we know, through his lost, and not 
through his regained, paradise. 33 

In his theoretical treatise, The Analysis of 

Beauty . Hogarth did not neglect the phenomenon. He 

wrote : 

It is strange that nature hath afforded us so 
many 1 ines and shapes to indicate the 
deficiencies and blemishes of the mind, while 
there are none at all that point out the 
perfections of it beyond the appearance of 
common sense and placidity. 34 

Neither did Sterne miss the paradox, though he 

touches on it but lightly in his amiable way, 

choosing as his simile the fruitful abundance and 

undisturbed tranquillity of a verdant plain, and 

presenting it in terms of literary criticism, that 

device so favoured by the English satirists of the 

eighteenth century: 

There is nothing more pleasing to a traveller — 
or more terrible to travel writers, than a large 
rich plain; especially if it is without great 
rivers or bridges; and presents nothing to the 
eye but one unvaried picture of plenty: for 
after they have once told you that 'tis 
delicious! or delightful! (as the case happens) 

JJ Ed. Herdan and Herdan, Lichtenberq' s 
Commentaries : Promies, Vol. Ill, pp. 988-89. 

34 William Hogarth, The Analysis of Beauty 
(1753) . Ed. Joseph Burke (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 
1955) , p. 141. 


— that the soil was grateful, and that nature 
pours out all her abundance, etc.... they have 
then a large plain upon their hands, which they 
know not what to do with — and which is of 
little use to them but to carry them to some 
town; and that town, perhaps of little more, but 
a new place to start from to the next plain — and 
so on (VII. iliii.). 

When Bonaventura confronts this dilemma, he 
projects it into eternity and is shatterd by his 
inability to imagine how the human ego could endure a 
permanent eguilibrium. His experience on earth has 
not furnished him with guidelines in this perplexity. 

As epitomized by Tristram, Rasselas and 
Voltaire's Candide, mankind persists in regarding the 
plain of plenty merely as convenient departing point 
to reach ever new horizons. The problem which none 
of the enlightened thinkers could solve in purely 
rational and human terms becomes truly terrifying 
when measured against immortality, for Kreuzgang 
arrives at the distinctly disturbing conclusion, that 
only the perishable parts of man — those which he 
shares with the animals — can ever find perfect 
satisfaction. Without the stomach as constant 
instigator, man would regress into stupor and 
indolence. The thought is particularly developed in 
the digression "Apology for Life" (p. 183 ff.) which 

The mind without the stomach is like the bear 
who indolently sucks his own paw. He is but the 
treasurer of this sack suspended in him, and if 


you cut it off him, then he is done for. (p. 185 

and 187) 35 

Tristram claims a similarly central position for the 
stomach in his cryptic, almost cynical remark which 
ends the Maria episode: 

"What and excellent inn at Moulins!" (IX. xxiv.) 

The satirical method in this exclamation, which 
feeds on the unexpected sudden connection between two 
quite unrelated subjects, is traced back to Rabelais 
by Melvyn New. 36 As Kreuzgang has set his horizons 
far beyond the next inn, the pleasantries of life 
cannot offer him any escape route, not even the 
temporary relief with which Tristram contents 
himself. To the nightwatchman the need for food, and 
the enjoyment it can provide, merely prove that the 
ego, when stripped of its animal nature, will have to 
face the terrifying ordeal for which the buried-alive 
nun serves as paradigm. What can the mind, left with 

• 3i> Lichtenberg used the unusual simile of the 
bear and his paws at various times, so in B 223, 
where he notes: "People become scholars just as some 
become soldiers, because they have no aptitude for 
anything else; their right hand has to earn their 
bread and they can be said to lay down like the bears 
in winter and suck out of their paws." A list of 
suggestions which were entered at the start of 
Wastebook E includes "the sucking of their paws by 
bears to be used as analogy for writing books" 
(Leitzmann, Vol. 136, p. 364). See also Eccl . IV, 5: 
"The fool foldeth his hands together and eateth his 
own flesh," and VI, 7: "All the labour of man is for 
his mouth and yet the appetite is not filled." 

New, p. 194. 


nothing but its own resources, hope and achieve? 

"Will it be able to beguile time for itself? . . . " 

(p. 169) . Such questions about the self cannot be 

answered from human experience. 

When the Porter asks, after the young mother is 

immured, "do you hate mankind now?" Kreuzgang's reply 

may seem like an attempt at changing the subject. It 

indicates however, how totally he identifies with the 

fate of the condemned woman 

'I am practically alone with myself — I said — , 
'and hate or love just as little as possible! I 
attempt to think that I think nothing, and that 
way I finally manage to get so far as to arrive 
at myself!'. . . (p. 169). 

The ellipsis is used with discretion, and indicates 

that both question and answer only touch on the 

problem which exceeds the considerable intellectual 

capabilities of the nightwatchman. 

The word "nothing" looms large in this 

statement, as it does also in so many Sternian 

phrases. The religio-mythical connotations of the 

word are indicated by its synonymity with Solomon's 

"Vanity," and its use by the psalmists. Bonaventura 

and Sterne manipulate it with dexterity and exploit 

its ambiguities, which are highlighted in the 

Niqhtwatches , because the last and final "Nothing" is 

not given as a straight reply to Kreuzgang's 

intellectual torment, but as the inconclusive call of 


an echo, as if to re-inflrce the Locke-Kantean 
contention that the mind is unable to reach out 
beyond itself. 

In the context of an argument on immortality, 
Sterne's "nothing" also is indeterminate. Tristram's 
elliptical discussion of the problem gives no clear 
indication whether his digression on souls (VII. 
xiv. , xv.) merely ridicules the serious challenge 
which a common word which nearly everybody takes for 
granted presented to many eighteenth-century 
thinkers, or whether his burlesque is intended as a 
sincere contribution to the dialogue of ideas. The 
menippea with its open-ended, fragmentary approach, 
leaves room for more than one interpretation. 

As usual, Tristram starts with a seemingly 
wildly unconnected thought: "I was under a vow not to 

shave my beard till I got to Paris ; yet I hate to 

make mysteries of nothing." But this immediately 
places "nothing" in the context of vow and mystery. 
He goes on to quote from Lessius (1554-1623) , a 
Jesuit scholar, who claims that only one Dutch cubic 
mile would be needed to contain all the dammned souls 
from Adam to the end of the world. 

Tristram's calculations that people since Adam, 
and with them presumably their souls, have grown 
smaller and smaller is based on a cabbalistic 


tradition which Bonaventura also uses to satiric 
purpose when he reminds the young art worshipper in 
the "invalid's home of immortal gods" of his "puny 
stature." Kreuzgang explains: "Since the fall, 
before which Adam, as is well known, through the 
assurances of the rabbis measured his hundred yards, 
we have become noticeably smaller and are shrinking 
more and more from age to age" (p. 193) . 

With similar satiric logic Sterne concludes that 
in Lessius' time souls "were as little as can be 

imagined We find them less now And next 

winter we shall find them less again; so that if we 
go on from little to less, and from less to nothing, 
I hesitate not one moment to affirm, that in half a 
century, at this rate, we shall have no souls at all" 
(VII. xiv. ) . 

Yorick the preacher cannot discuss this 
proposition with the florid ease and blithe abandon 
of Tristram the ironic person, who zigzags away from 
problems when they become too pressing, and may or 
may not approach them later from a guite different 
direction. A sermon on the "Abuses of Conscience" 
substitutes, however, conscience for souls and warns 
that though well working consciences are taken for 
granted, many people manage altogether without one 
and others, as David in the case of Uriah, with one 


that is conveniently selective. In this sermon 

Sterne also provides the key to the anecdote of the 

Abbess of Andouillets and her hypocritical ilk: 

The surest way to try the merit of any disputed 

notion, is to trace down the consequences such 

a notion has produced, and compare them with the 
spirit of Christianity. 37 

Lichtenberg secularized this precept, and many 
of his far-sighted predictions owe their origin to 
its rigorous application. Kreuzgang follows the same 
guideline when he demands an "explanation for every 
single substance," and "soars ever higher from 
natural science into theology" (p. 63) . Like Sterne, 
he is also capable of drawing a quick line from any 
triviality, such as a shoe (p. 63) , to the most 
challenging questions. In the light of Yorick's 
sermon, the "nothing" in Tristram's digression on 
souls becomes synonymous with "worthless, because 
inactive." Sterne and Bonaventura are, however, not 
content with final definitions. Their verbal 
virtuosity is constantly displayed by the many 
variations of meaning they are able to reveal. 

Beside all these features, Lichtenberg and 
Bonaventura have also this in common with Sterne and 
his distinguished predecessors in English eighteenth- 
century satire; while they are steeped in rhetorical 

Sterne, Sermons . Vol. II, p. 116. 


tradition, and their writings abound with literary 
allusions, and with references to the current and 
common concerns of their times, they have produced 
works of inspiring and exemplary originality. 


Themes and techniques in the Nightwatches concur 
with Lichtenberg's literary criteria, as with his 
spheres of interest. But in the absence of all 
documentary proof, neither he — nor anybody else — can 
be acclaimed as undisputed author of the Nightwatches 
by Bonaventura . The writer of this remarkable text 
should, however, be recognized as the possessor of an 
exceptionally sharp intellect which was thoroughly 
steeped in rhetoric and the classical tradition; 
which focused on the concerns of the enlightenment, 
especially man's place in the universe; which was 
interested in, and familiar with all university 
disciplines, and the printing trade; which was 
conversant to an outstanding degree in literature, 
philosophy, and science, and in particular with their 
development in England. Like Lichtenberg and 

Ecclesiasticus, but unlike the romantics, Bonaventura 
did not dream of a Golden Age of long ago. 1 He was 
probing the limits of human knowledge in all 

- 1 Eccl. VII, 10: "Say not thou, What is the 
cause that the former days were better than these? 
for thou dost not inquire wisely concerning this." 



directions, but wary enough of any possible progress 

to use satire as his preferred mode of expression. 

In this genre he demonstrates a thorough 

familiarity with the English satirists of the 

eighteenth century, and he follows the tradition of 

Swift, Pope and the other Scriblerians, Fielding and 

Sterne. Like Lichtenberg, all these writers enjoyed 

the satires of Lucian, and Bakhtin might refer to any 

of their work when he says of this Greek master of 

the menippea that 

the satires of Lucian, taken as a group, are an 
entire encyclopedia of his times: they are full 
of overt and hidden polemics with various 
philosophical, religious, ideological and 
scientific schools, and with the tendencies and 
currents of his time; they are full of the 
images of contemporary or recently deceased 
public figures, 'masters of thought' in all 
spheres of societal and ideological life (under 
their own names, or disguised) ; they feel out 
new directions in the development of everyday 
life; they show newly emerging types in all 
layers of society, and so on. They are a sort 
of Diary of a Writer , seeking to unravel and 
evaluate the general spirit and direction of 
evolving contemporary life. 2 

While this thesis concentrates on Bonaventura ' s 

exceptional familiarity with English language, 

culture and literature, and in particular with the 

menippean tradition which flowered in English satire 

during the eighteenth century, it must be stressed 

that there are other means by which Bonaventura ' s 

Bakhtin, Prolems, p. 118. 


dense text could be analysed, and that he was as 
familiar and concerned with life and conditions in 
his own country as with those in England. 3 

While most of his paradigms are chosen from 
sources which may now be considered rather obscure, 
and were so already in large measure to the romantics 
of the early nineteenth century, during the 
enlightenment the majority of them were so widely 
accessible as to be almost cliches. Never, though, 
did Bonaventura use any trope without revealing 
unexpected facets of these time-worn examples, or 
without illuminating their inherent meaning in new 
and unexpected ways. 

The fleeting reference to Ugolino, for instance, 
needs footnoting now. Gerstenberg, however, begins a 
short introductory passage to his tragedy Ugolino by 
stating that the plot is too well known to demand any 
explanation, and Lessing starts his review of the 
play with exactly the same words. In England the 
episode was at the time so well known that Paget 

J E.g. Linde Katritzky, "Goethe in den 
'Nachtwachen. Von Bonaventura' und in den Schriften 
Georg Christoph Lichtenbergs . " Goethe- Jahrbuch 
(Weimar), 1987, pp. 157-168. Similar connections 
exist to many other German eighteenth-century 
writers, notably Lessing, Moser, Herder, Wieland, 
Klopstock and the writers of the Gottinger Hain, 
Tieck and the brothers Schlegel, Jean Paul, and the 
philosophers Kant and Fichte. There are also 
recurrent parallels to the mysticism of Jacob Bohme. 


Toynbee sees it as "hackneyed" already in 1781. 
Frances A. Yates, who quotes this from Toynbee 's 
Dante in English Literature (1909) remarks on "the 
curious fact that before any complete translation of 
Dante exists in English, there are already three 
verse and three prose renderings of the Ugolino 
episode, and a picture of the subject by one of the 
greatest of English artists. Dante seems to make his 
entry into eighteenth-century England in the form of 
Ugolino. " 4 

Relying on this background of common knowledge, 
Bonaventura can omit the gruesome gothic details. 
His emphasis is not on the anguish and the pathetic 
plight of the suffering individual, experienced as a 
romantic hero "different from the society that has 
failed him." While Jack D. Zipes thus sees the 
romantic hero as "essentially an anticultural hero in 
that he represents the primacy of the individual over 
society," 5 Kreuzgang and even the Poor Poet, who in 

4 Frances A. Yates, "Transformations of Dante's 
Ugolino," in Journal of the Warburg and Courtauld 
Institutes . Vol. XIV (The Warburg Institute, 
University of London, 1951), p. 94. A verse 
translation of the episode by Edward Young was not 
published during the eighteenth century. 

5 Jack D. Zipes, the great refusal, studies of 
the romantic hero in german and american literature 
(Bad Homburg: Athenaum, 1970), pp. 21 and 31. 

some measure seems to conform to this romantic 

pattern, consistently stress the universality and 

general relevance of their attitudes. 

When the Poor Poet therefore explains himself in 

his "Letter of Refusal to Life" (p. 133 and 135) , by 

using allusions to Dante, he experiences his own fate 

not as exceptional but as representative and 

parabolic, and diverts the perspective away from 

himself onto the world at large: 

they are letting me starve, like Ugolino in the 
greatest hunger tower, the world, the key for 
which they have cast before my very eyes into 
the sea forever. 

The digressive letter is one of many inserted 
genres in the Niahtwatches . These are, according to 
Bakhtin, "presented at various distances from the 
ultimate authorial position." 6 It starts with a 
reversal of Franklin's epitaph, and shows from the 
beginning a shift of emphasis from the individual 
fate onto general conditions: "Man is good for 
nothing. Therefore I am striking him out. My Man 
has found no publisher, neither as persona vera nor 
ficta." Like "Ugolino turned blind from hunger" the 
poet is "conscious of his blindness." Like 
Empedocles he cannot bear it and prefers "to mount 
the battlements and hurl" himself "down." 

Bakhtin, Problems . p. 118. 


The deed is neither commended nor condemned, for 
the menippea poses questions and exposes problems for 
which there are no answers. Use of the reversed 
epitaph suggests, however, that there are other 
solutions besides the one chosen by the poet. The 
position of Dante's Ugolino episode at the end of the 
Inferno (Canto XXXIII, 1-78) points, like other 
signifiers in the Niqhtwatches , to the expectation 
that life will continue after death, for Dante left 
Hell directly after encountering such extreme 
suffering to proceed to Purgatory and hence to 
Paradise. St. Bonaventura greets him there 
(Paradiso, Canto XII) , the great mystic, who "holds a 
central and pivotal position" in the history of 
Western spirituality," whose masterpiece, Itinerarium 
mentis in Deum . Ewert Cousins as The Soul's Journey 
into God , though due to the ambivalent connotations 
of mens, mentis , he translates in his text 11 the terms 
mens as "soul" and as "mind" depending on the 
connotations of the context. 7 Kreuzgang, who 
parallels this quest for meaning in life and 
continuance into eternity, pursues it, however, 
solely with the faculties of the mind. He has 

' Bonaventure, The Soul's Journey into God. The 
Tree of Life. The Life of St. Francis . Transl. and 
intr. Ewert Cousins (New York: Paulist Press, 1978), 
Introduction, pp. 1 and 20-21. 

therefore to dispense with the religious dimension in 
his reasoning, but he points to it continuously, 
nevertheless, through various associations, not least 
by presenting his ventures under the pseudonym 
Bonaventura . 

Among various asides which tie in with this 
interpretation is a seemingly casual remark at the 
end of praise for "tragic jest and such fools as in 
King Lear ." when Kreuzgang in one of his many 
metaphors from stage and literature condemns "good- 
natured composers of comedies" for writing 

as if life were the highest thing and not rather 
man, who goes further than life, which makes up 
merely the first act and the inferno in the 
Divine Comedy through which, in order to seek 
his ideal, he is travelling . . . [sic] (p. 67) 

Ugolino thus represents Man — his helpless 

suffering, his restrictive confinement, his raging 

intellectual hunger and his blindness, his utter 

inability to look beyond the walls of his dark and 

narrow dungeon. He also epitomizes the extremity of 

hell beyond which there is hope for redemption in the 

sense of Dante, and also of Jacob Bohme who 

experiences the darkest hour as the beginning of 

morn . 8 

8 This is the leading idea in Jacob Bohme 's 
Aurora ; Kreuzgang refers to it in the First 
Nightwatch when he censures the zealous priest who 
"paints the beyond in audacious pictures; not, 
however, the beautiful aurora of the new day and the 


By assuming that every component of the 
composition carries emblematic significance, and is 
part of an interconnecting orchestration, we can 
approach the Nightwatches through any detail in the 
text and find a multilayered structure that reaches 
beyond literal meaning into allegorical, symbolical 
and mystical/spiritual levels. 

Lichtenberg applied this intensively 
interpretative method to his Hogarth Commentaries . 
adapting his explications to the sophisticated 
emblematic methods of the comic-serious and satiric 
genres of the enlightenment, which parabolized 
general truth in individual incident, and therefore 
habitually worked with multi-meaningful 
implications . 9 

When the Nightwatches are placed and analyzed 
within this generic framework, they will be viewed as 
a tightly structured text in which each detail is 
deliberately manipulated to demonstrate the confusion 
and limitations of life, the closeness of sanity and 
insanity, and the inconclusiveness of even the most 

budding arbours and angles" (p. 33) . 

9 The technigue is epitomized by a remark to 
Plate III of The Harlots Progress : "Here furniture 
has to explain personalities." Promies III, p. 758. 


advanced and profound human arguments. 10 The reader 
is left with unanswered and, if Kant can be trusted, 
unanswerable ultimate questions, to which he should 
ideally react with his own responses, for if he 
expects to be redeemed in the mystico-religious sense 
of Bohme, he must be prepared to take his own cross 
willingly upon himself. 

That Kreuzgang has done so is shown by his name. 
It means calvary, the walk towards suffering and 
death. Willful substitution of this variant for his 
original name, Kreuzweg, signifies acceptance of 
Bohme 's mystical commitment. Both names are 
ambivalent, and like the nightwatchman' s allegorical 
genealogy expressive of the complex paradoxes in 
human nature. Kreuzgang stands also for cloister, a 
place of spiritual rest and contemplation. Kreuzweg, 
crossroad, is a position where everything converges 
and departs. In this sense it is used by Sophocles, 
when Oedipus meets his fate and kills his father at a 
crossroad. In folklore, it is also the meeting place 

xv Eccl., e.g. II, 19: "And who knoweth whether 
he shall be a wise man or a fool? yet shall he have 
rule over all my labour wherein I have laboured, and 
wherein I have shewed myself wise under the sun. 
This is also vanity." 


of spirits, both benevolent and — more commonly — 
evil. 11 

Rudolf Haym's evaluation of the Nightwatches as 
one of the most fascinating works of the romantic 
epoch illustrates that Bonaventura ' s work still 
exerts its challenge, but that profound changes in 
perception, intention, and motivation took place when 
the age of enlightenment turned into the romantic 
epoch. Words began to communicate different 
intentions; satiric critigue of prevailing conditions 
was swept aside by vehemently expressed hopes for an 
idealized future, and the artist transformed himself 
from a didactic mentor with the ambition to instruct 
while he entertained, into a creative prodigy 
overflowing with innate genius, superior to the rest 
of mankind, and set apart from it. 

That the Nightwatches allow varied 
interpretations and respond to approaches from 
successive epochs in different ways is a measure of 
their author's exceptional intellect and brilliance. 
He achieved the depth and sparkle of his imagery by 
overlaying his images with all the available thoughts 
and comments of important previous thinkers, then 

- LX Bachtold-Staubli , Handworterbuch des 
deutschen Aberglaubens . 


fusing them in Lichtenberg's manner under the intense 
heat of his own scrutiny. 

He succeeded in explaining the difficult and 
profound in easily accessible parabolic metaphors, 
and by infusing the commonplaces of his time with 
startling significance, though his intense economy of 
style and metaphor acts frequently as an initial 
impediment to understanding. As long as the problems 
of man's ultimate destination remain unresolved, and 
the Tragedy; Man — the selfish mis-use of man's mental 
gifts — is still performed on the great stage of this 
world, the ideas which he communicated to posterity 
are worthy of serious consideration. They deserve 
also a prominent place in the history of ideas, as a 
window into a former age, and as witness to one of 
the most important literary and philosophical 
movements in modern Western thought, the ongoing and 
mutually invigorating exchange between England and 



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A. J. Dietlinde Katritzky was born as the 
daughter of Dr. Friedrich Kilian and Renate, nee 
Vocke, in Ansbach, Germany, in 1928. She attended 
schools in Obernburg am Main (1934-38) , Aschaf fenburg 
am Main (1938) , and Munich (1939-47) , and studied at 
the University of Munich from 1947-1952. She 
interrupted her studies in 1950 to visit England 
where she obtained the Cambridge Efficiency Diploma 
in English. After the Staatsexamen in History, 
English and German, she married in 1952 Alan R. 
Katritzky, then a research student in chemistry in 
Oxford, England, and since August 1980 Kenan 
Professor of Chemistry at the University of Florida. 
They lived in Oxford, Cambridge and Norwich (England) 
where they raised four children. 

In August 1982 she became a full time teaching 
assistant and graduate student in the Department of 
Germanic and Slavic Languages and Literatures at the 
University of Florida, where she was offered a 
visiting lecturership in 1985, after obtaining the 
degree of Master of Arts in 1984. 



In August 1984 she was accepted as a graduate 
student by the Department of English at the 
University of Florida and entered the fascinating 
world of English eighteenth-century enlightenment and 
satire with a course by Dr. Brian R. McCrea. 

I certify that I have read this study and that 
in my opinion it conforms to acceptable standards of 
scholarly presentation and is fully adequate, in 
scope and quality, as a dissertation for the degree 
of Doctor of Philosophy. 

I certify that I have read this study and that 
in my opinion it conforms to acceptable standards of 
scholarly presentation and is fully adequate, in 
scope and quality, as a dissertation for the degree 
of Doctor of Philosophy. 

I certify that I have read this study and that 
in my opinion it conforms to acceptable standards of 
scholarly presentation and is fully adequate, in 
scope and quality, as a dissertation for the degree 
of Doctor of Philosophy. 

Brian R. McCrea, Chairman 
Associate Professor 


Alistair M. Duckworth 
Professor of English 

I certify that I have read this study and that 
in my opinion it conforms to acceptable standards of 
scholarly presentation and is fully adequate, in 
scope and quality, as a dissertation for the degree 
of Doctor of Philosophy. 

I certify that I have read this study and that 
in my opinion it conforms to acceptable standards of 
scholarly presentation and is fully adequate, in 
scope and quality, as a dissertation for the degree 
of Doctor of Philosophy. 

This dissertation was submitted to the Graduate 
Faculty of the Department of Englisch in the College 
of Liberal Arts and Sciences and to the Graduate 
School and was accepted as partial fulfillment of the 
requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy. 

August 1988 

Professor of English 

Charles F. Sidman 
Professor of History 

Dean, Graduate School 


3 1262 08557 1908